THERE would be no denying LA Tenorio his moment under the spotlight.
Next up for Ginebra is the winner of the Rain or Shine-GlobalPort tussle, set to be decided Thursday, in a best-of-five duel that should start over the weekend.
Justin Brownlee scored a game-high 36 points, but it was Tenorio who shone brightest in one crucial stretch as Barangay Ginebra pummeled Meralco 104-90 Wednesday to advance to the PBA Commissioner's Cup semi-finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After the Bolts whittled an 18-point deficit to just six, Tenorio promptly buried a corner 3 then followed it up with a steal and an assist which Brownlee translated into an emphatic dunk that fully sparked the Kings' endgame push.
"LA's 3, his steal and assist, that's the game right there," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
"It's just LA being LA. Such a big moment guy."
The victory is actually the seventh straight for the Kings and the semis stint their sixth straight. But Cone remains wary.
"So we're through. That's the good news," said Cone.
"Now we're able to sit and watch Rain or Shine play GlobalPort tomorrow and we'll start preparing for that series," added Cone.
"It's a blessing and a curse. A blessing since we have the momentum, playing well. But it's also a curse because at some point you've got to come down from the mountain. Let's see if we can stay on the mountain."
The loss was the third straight in a series for Meralco against Ginebra, including their last two Governors Cup title duels.
Arinze Onuaku had 21 points and 13 rebounds, but tallied only five of his points in the second half against the alternating defense thrown at him by Greg Slaughter, Joe Devance and Japeth Aguilar.
Chris Newsome rebounded from a two-point output in the opener with 17 points, while Baser Amer and Reynel Hugnatan wound up with at least 10 each.
Ginebra's attack was more open-ended with Tenorio, Slaughter, Sol Mercado, Jeff Chan and Devance all chipping in, resulting in a couple of 18-point spreads, the last at 85-67.
Like in the opener, Meralco also got off to a strong start and even led by 12 at one point.
But Ginebra was quicker to regroup this time, rattling off one run after the other to wrest the lead for good at 56-51 before going to the fourth canto with a 79-65 spread.
Meralco mustered one last run anchored on Newsome and Amer that put the Bolts within 81-87, still 4:52 left.
Tenorio then came up with a corner triple and then stole the ball and fed Brownlee for a dunk that sparked the Kings' endgame push.
"LA's 3, his steal and assist, that's the game right there," said Cone. "It's just LA being LA. Such a big moment guy."
"They tried to get off to a good start and they did," noted Cone. "But we took the punch and came back on our own."(JT)
Ginebra 104 - Brownlee 36, Slaughter 14, Tenorio 11, Aguilar 10, Mercado 9, Devance 8, Chan 8, Thompson 4, Ferrer 2, Caguioa 2, Manuel 0, Caperal 0, Mariano 0.
Meralco 90 - Onuaku 21, Newsome 17, Amer 11, Hugnatan 10, De Ocampo 6, Dillinger 6, Hodge 6, Caram 6, Lanete 3, Baracael 2, Canaleta 2, Ballesteros 0, Salva 0, Sedurifa 0, Bono 0.
Quarters: 24-28, 56-51, 79-65, 104-90.