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SMALL men LA Tenorio, Jayjay Helterbrand and Mac Baracael stood tall from start to finish as they led Barangay Ginebra to a gritty 111-103 Game Five victory over Talk ‘N Text on Sunday night and its first appearance in a championship series in two years.
Playing through a painful elbow injury, Tenorio tormented the Tropang Texters with layups and floating jumpers all evening as Ginebra wrapped up the best-of-five series, 3-2, and arranged a beguiling PBA Commissioner's Cup title showdown with Tenorio's former team Alaska.
Helterbrand and Baracael, on the other hand, supplied the much-needed ammunition from the perimeter as their heroics helped the Gin Kings survive a Talk 'N Text fightback from a 20-point halftime deficit before a huge Sunday crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“This is my rookie year as coach of Ginebra. And this is my first conference and I didn’t expect to be in the championship. Mag-semis lang parang championship na eh. But I give it to Talk ‘N Text. They played hard though kulang-kulang sila,” said a jubilant Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua.
Tenorio wowed the crowd a personal conference-best 28 points on eight-of-13 shooting from the two-point zone. He added six rebounds, five assists and one steal in 36 minutes of play.
Import Vernon Macklin, as always, was a constant inside the court, finishing with 22 points and 20 rebounds, while Baracael and Helterbrand chipped in 21 and 15, respectively.
Chua is in his first Finals appearance since the 1999 All-Filipino Conference when he was then a rookie coach for Tanduay Gold Rhum. Tanduay lost to Shell that conference in the Finals.
Talk ‘N Text played without starting power forward Ranidel de Ocampo, who was a late scratch due to a sore right calf, joining injured or sick players Jared Dillinger (fractured pelvic) and Kelly Williams (recurring blood disorder).
Completing the joy of the more than 21,000 people that packed the Big Dome was the surprise entry of Gin Kings superstar guard Mark Caguioa, who was fielded in by Chua with just 34.5 seconds to play and the game beyond doubt.
Caguioa managed to score his first two points since going down with an MCL injury on his knee in a game against the Meralco Bolts on March 22.
GINEBRA 111 - Tenorio 28, Macklin 22, Baracael 21, Helterbrand 15, Raymundo 13, Hatfield 6, Urbiztondo 3, Caguioa 2, Ellis 1, Mamaril 0.
TALK N' TEXT 103 - Mitchell 42, Castro 15, Peek 11, Reyes 10, Ferriols 9, Aban 8, Fonacier 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Carey 2, Raymundo 1, Gamalinda 0, Alvarez 0, Alapag 0.
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