Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Tim Cone will be in for an excruciating time if Game 1 is an indication of how the PBA Philippine Cup Finals is going to be for the next week or two.
“If we were gonna have six more of these games, I don’t think my heart’s gonna take it,” Cone said after Ginebra squeaked past TNT Sunday night with a 100-94 overtime win at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Almost 48 hours removed from surviving Meralco in their semifinal series, Ginebra had to endure another tightly-contested affair against a TNT side which was one stop away from taking the opener in regulation.
But to Cone’s liking, Ginebra made the key plays late in the fourth and overtime anchored by long-time playmaker LA Tenorio to move three wins away from claiming the PBA’s crown jewel.
Tenorio was praised for his quarterbacking skills that resulted in 10 assists, three of which came in the crucial moments. His pass to Arvin Tolentino sent the game into overtime while also finding Aljon Mariano and Japeth Aguilar for the crucial baskets to secure the final count.
“We started putting the ball in LA’s hands and let him make the decisions,” Cone said, a decision which came while Stanley Pringle had his moments of difficulty against TNT’s defense.
“He was really asking for it. He was asking for the ball, and in LA we trust. He’s been around us for so long and he’s used to that kind of situation,” added Cone.
Aguilar got the nod as Player of the Game on television with his 25-point, 16-rebound effort, Tolentino repaid Cone’s trust despite being a rookie by producing 14 points while Mariano had four of his eight rebounds on the offensive glass.
Pringle remained effective for Ginebra, finishing with 24 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals while Scottie Thompson, fresh from his game-winning triple against Meralco in Game 5, put up 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
That is something Cone hopes would continue as he braces for major adjustments from TNT ahead of Game 2 set Wednesday evening inside the Smart Clark Giga City bubble.
“I remember saying to the team as we were going into a timeout, I yelled at them: ’That’s how to be a team. That’s how you be a team.’ So it was really a tremendous team effort,” he said.
“Japeth was rolling hard, getting to the rim and making easy passes for LA to give. Scottie on the defense and the rebounds. Arvin played really well, had that big basket to tie the game and send it into overtime. He made a beautiful cut to the rim.
“So we got a lot of contributions, and that’s the way it has to be when we play this team. No one person will be able to beat (TNT). It’s gotta be as a team, everybody contributing. Everybody stepping up.”
The two-day rest should serve as a welcome break for both teams after enduring a pair of semifinal duels that went the full five games which ended nearly 48 hours before the start of the Finals.
“This was truly an exhausting game coming from the games we just played a couple of nights ago,” said Cone.