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.