Standhardinger, Ginebra take Game 1 of Governors' Cup semifinal

Christian Standhardinger scored 33 points to power Barangay Ginebra to an 121-112 win over the San Miguel Beermen in Game 1 of the PBA Governors' Cup semifinals Friday, March 24, 2023. Courtesy of the PBA

Drawing inspiration from the presence of LA Tenorio, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel took an emotional 121-112 win over the San Miguel Beermen in Game 1 of their PBA Governors' Cup best-of-five semifinal series Friday.

Tenorio, who announced on Tuesday that he was battling colon cancer, sat on the bench of Barangay Ginebra for the first time in nearly a month, and his presence clearly had an effect on his teammates. He declined to speak to the media after the game, but he did speak to the TV panel during a brief on-air interview.

"I'm sure that I will come back," he said. "For now I'm still thankful and grateful that I'm here in front of the PBA family. I'm sure God's plan is for me to be an inspiration for everyone."

'We're doing this for LA'

Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone also preferred not to talk too much about Tenorio in respect for the star point guard's wishes to keep things private. But he did appreciate Tenorio's decision to join the team on the bench despite his condition.

"I don't want to speak too much on LA because he's asked to be private about it and he's been very definite to the team and to the coaching staff and management that he wants to keep things as private as he can," Cone said. "So I don't want to go out and disclose a lot of things. I will just say it's a great honor that he is here with us and doing things he wants to do while he's doing things he needs to do. So I feel honored that he's spending time with us. He's so valuable, he's a leader, He's been a leader since the time I've been here. And even when I was with Alaska 14, 15 years ago he was our leader back then. He's just a natural-born leader.

"I just find it really selfless on his part to be here, and I think the whole team feels that. It can be kind of corny, 'We're doing this for LA'. Of course we're doing this for LA. It doesn't need to be said. I don't think it needs to be repeated. He honors us with his presence, hopefully we can honor him by continuing to play hard and play in his image. It's been tough on us, but it's been much tougher on him and his family. It doesn't get any tougher than this, this kind of battle.

"I appreciate the way the whole San Miguel team came down after the game despite losing, went over and greeted LA and made sure he felt love. I think the whole league, the whole country is behind him. I just think we need to give him some space to allow him to do his thing, and when he comes back in October, I think he can answer all the questions for us."

Barangay Ginebra import Justin Brownlee said Tenorio has given so much to the team, it was only right that they would have his back during this trying time.

"The other day, when the team found out, he had a post where he said 'If you have a problem, you can't think about the problem. You think about the solution.' So that was a valuable piece of information that he gave us. We're not only behind LA, we're with him.

"Even though this is a tough time for us, we'll just try to think about a solution and help LA as much as we can. His presence is always huge. He's always been a vocal guy, he's always been a leader. Whenever he'd come in, whether it's practice, a game, even a team meeting, you can always feel his presence."

SMB rally stifled

Cone used only seven players, and he had planned on fielding in his second stringers after Ginebra posted a 92-72 lead late in the third quarter. But the Beermen dropped a 23-3 bomb and suddenly the game was tied at 95 early in the fourth.

"I would have liked to have gone deeper and we were hoping that when we had the 20-point lead we'd be able to bring that to the end and be able to give our guys some rest but San Miguel had another thought in mind and they came rumbling back at us. We won the game so I guess we played well overall, but we had some bad stretches where we didn't play well.

"This team is too good. If it's an even game and you lose your concentration, you blink your eyes and they could be up by 10 or 15 in a moment's notice. Luckily it happened when we were up by 20 so we were able to still recover."

Christian Standhardinger, who led Ginebra with 33 points, agreed with his coach.

"Obviously they're a great team and you never can count them out. I think that's the lesson that we need to take out of this game. Even if you're up 15, even if you're up 20, you gotta keep pushing and take it very, very seriously because they've got so many great shooters, so many great scorers that within five minutes - boom - it was an even game."

Early call time

When the semifinal schedule was released Wednesday night, the one thing that stood out was the time slot of the Ginebra-San Miguel games. The Kings are the undisputed top attraction of the league, so it was surprising to see that they were slotted into the first game of the double header for Games 1 and 3, and if necessary, Game 5. It's the first time all conference that Ginebra played in the first game, and Cone admitted in messed up his routine.

"We all have routines. I have a routine on how I approach my game and what I do through the day and we're locked into a routine. It's either 5:45 or 6:45 games. And that's just a small adjustment. But to suddenly play at 3:00, go all the way up to Antipolo, it's a big adjustment. I'm a big believer in routines. I was afraid today that we'd come out flat, but they did a great job of coming out with a lot of energy early. But these guys are pros, they'll adjust. It's not comfortable adjusting, but you can do it when you have to."