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Barangay Ginebra braces for Bay Area’s fury

‘This is the best finals I’ve ever been.’

Game Sunday:
(Mall of Asia Arena)
5 p.m. — Barangay Ginebra vs Bay Area

Throughout his Philippine Basketball Association coaching career, Tim Cone has battled formidable, more superior teams.

But never he has ever faced an opponent as deadly and as well-coached as Bay Area, handled by no less than Brian Goorjian, the man who steered Australia to its highest-place finish — bronze medal — in the Olympic Games last year.

No wonder, Cone best sums up the upcoming Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven championship series between his team, Barangay Ginebra, and the so-called invaders of the PBA, the Dragons of Bay Area.

“This is the best finals I’ve ever been to,” Cone told media during the press launching of the upcoming finals series at the Novotel in Araneta Center.

The Christmas Day encounter which begins at 5 p.m. will be a total treat for the fans in what can easily qualify as the most significant championship encounter in years.

Ginebra now takes pride in carrying the battle not just for its legions of fans in the barangay, but also that of the entire nation.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see supporters of different teams to join the bandwagon and rally behind the Gin Kings against a crack visiting squad trying to become the first foreign team to win a PBA title in 42 years.

Nicholas Stoodley, bannered by former PBA imports Larry Pounds, Kenny Tyler, swept Toyota, 2-0, in the 1980 best-of-three championship series of the 1980 PBA Invitational tournament.

In 1985, Northern Consolidated, which primarily composed of players representing the national team in major international competitions, was the last guest team to win a PBA title and pulled it off in impressive fashion by recording the first sweep in the best-of-seven championship series against Manila Beer.

Cone knows how dangerous of a team Bay Area is.

“We have to play our best basketball every game against Bay Area, because if we’re not, we’re going to be in big trouble,” said Cone, who is looking to win his 25th championship and the eighth under the Ginebra franchise.

Veteran LA Tenorio is also excited to face the biggest battle of his professional basketball career and he is so motivated to face the Dragons.

Tenorio had a rough start this conference, but his game started to pick up when it mattered most.

In the playoffs, he was vintage Tenorio, averaging 19 points on a 58 percent shooting average from beyond the arc in the Gin Kings’ last two victories on their way to returning to the championship round.

“I’ve been playing in the league for so long and played in the playoffs here and there. We always look forward to moments like this, veterans like me,” Tenorio told Daily Tribune.

In making another championship run, where he has a chance to score his eighth title, the league’s most durable player could only be happier for the young players like Jamie Malonzo and Jeremiah Gray, who will get an opportunity to win their first PBA title this early.

“At this point of my career, I’m really looking after the young players. I want them to experience this right away. I want them to experience this kind of atmosphere. It’s big for them moving forward,” Tenorio said.

Malonzo had been playing solid basketball the moment he burst onto the PBA scene three seasons ago, but now he has a chance to win the big one while playing for the league’s most popular squad.

“It’s exciting,” Malonzo added. “Maybe a year and a half ago, I was dreaming of this position and now it’s finally here and happening so fast, I just have to soak it in.”

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