Basketball

Tenorio goes supernova as SMART-Gilas defeats USA to win Jones Cup

AKTV file photo/Joser Dumbrique

Against an American team with superior size advantage, it was the smallest man on the Philippine side who stood tallest.

LA Tenorio delivered the biggest buckets in the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team’s 76-75 victory over USA to bring home the William Jones Cup to the Philippines for the first time since 1998.

The Alaska point guard scored 20 points, including the go-ahead basket with 17 seconds to go to lift SMART-Gilas to the win.

Before that, the 5-foot-8 Tenorio masterminded a Philippine comeback from a 13-point second half deficit. The US squad was still up, 59-46, with a minute left in the third quarter before SMART-Gilas unleashed a 15-0 run capped by a Tenorio runner to give the Philippines its first lead since the first quarter. He scored 11

It was a nip and tuck affair the rest of the way, with USA grabbing the upper hand on a fastbreak layup by Jermaine Dearman, 75-74, with 36 seconds left.

SMART-Gilas coach Chot Reyes drew up a play that saw LA Tenorio breaking down his defender, dribbling left, and coolly sinking an 18-foot jumper for the win.

The Americans dribbled up the court and took a hurried shot, allowing SMART-Gilas to recover. The US squad were forced to foul Jeff Chan with just 1.9 seconds left, but the Rain or Shine sharpshooter, who hit five three-pointers in the game, missed his first free throw.

Reyes instructed Chan to intentionally miss his second shot, giving the Americans one last look at the basket, a jumpshot that clanged harmlessly off the ring.

With the victory, SMART-Gilas assured itself of the top spot in the standings after completing their eight-game schedule with a 7-1 record. No other team had fewer than two losses coming into the last day of the competition. SMART-Gilas only loss came against Lebanon.

The Philippines won the tournament for the fourth time in its 34-year history, the last 14 years ago when the Philippine Centennial Team swept the field to bag the title.

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