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.
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 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.