While quarterback L. A. Tenorio was clearly the man of the moment in Ginebra San Miguel’s 111-103 win over Talk ‘N’ Text to clinch their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series for a ticket to the Finals, it was Jay-Jay Helterbrand who delivered the Good News before 21,480 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Sunday night.
Tenorio, in only his second conference wearing a Ginebra uniform, was masterful in orchestrating the Texters’ downfall. He sparked the Kings’ breakaway in the second period where they opened a 20-point lead and landed the killer blows in the homestretch. When Tenorio sat on the bench in foul trouble, the Tropa roared back to cut what was once a 22-point deficit to six in the third quarter. That’s how vital Tenorio’s presence was on the court.
Tenorio scattered six points in the opening inning, 10 in the second and 12 in the fourth. Ginebra raced to a 7-0 start and enjoyed its biggest lead, 63-41, on Rudy Hatfield’s bucket early in the second half. Tenorio wound up with 28 points, six rebounds and five assists in 36 minutes. It was the most Tenorio has ever scored for Ginebra and fell five points shy of duplicating his career-high with Alaska in 2010-11.
Notwithstanding Tenorio’s heroics, one man in the Ginebra camp stood out for his unwavering faith in the team’s never-say-die spirit, someone who recently considered retirement in the wake of recurring injuries and long layoffs. That warrior was Helterbrand whose devotion to the Christian faith led to a business called The Good News to spread the Word of God. Helterbrand is into selling mugs, T-shirts, jackets and baller bands with Bible verses that inspire and teach essential life lessons.
Helterbrand, 36, was the PBA’s MVP in 2008-09 and only knows how to play at the highest level. His partnership with Mark Caguioa conjured visions of the Fast and the Furious. But with injuries and age slowing him down, Helterbrand is unsure of how much longer he’ll play. Ginebra’s fans, however, don’t want him to go. And for Helterbrand, there is now more to playing than just playing. He’s got a mission for God and that’s his driving force.
Last Sunday, Helterbrand was the bearer of Good News for Ginebra. He repeatedly came through with timely baskets to bail Ginebra out of danger. After the Texters’ Jayson Castro hit back-to-back field goals, Helterbrand went to the line for two free throws to ease the pressure in the third period. After the Tropa cut the lead to seven at 74-67, Helterbrand retaliated. In the fourth quarter, Helterbrand got Ginebra off to a strong start with a basket to make it 80-69. After Tony Mitchell trimmed the gap to six at 87-81 with 7:06 left, Helterbrand knocked down two free throws. After the Texters scored four straight points to make it 93-85, Helterbrand hit a jumper with 3:40 to go. Whenever the Tropa threatened, Helterbrand played the fireman’s role and doused the Texters’ rally.
It didn’t matter that Helterbrand missed his last two foul shots with 17 ticks remaining. The outcome had been settled by then and at the final buzzer, Helterbrand welcomed the Good News by pointing his finger up to heaven and praising the Lord. Helterbrand finished with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in 32 solid minutes. He teamed up with Tenorio in the backcourt, relieving the former Ateneo star of point guard duties and allowing him to focus on attacking the defense.
To be sure, there were more Ginebra heroes than just Helterbrand and Tenorio. Mac Baracael netted 21 points, including eight in the first period. Kerby Raymundo tallied 13 and Rudy Hatfield compiled six points and five rebounds. Import Vernon Macklin was a tower of power at the post, collecting 22 points and 20 rebounds.
Destiny brought Ginebra to victory and the chance to play Alaska in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals starting tomorrow. Talk ‘N’ Text showed up for Game 5 against the Barangay without Ranidel de Ocampo, Jared Dillinger and Kelly Williams. Jimmy Alapag nursed a severe sprain in his calf and could only play five minutes, missing a single three-point attempt. Coach Norman Black dug deep into his bench to find John Ferriols, Aaron Aban and Pamboy Raymundo. The unlikely rotation was a damper and so was Mitchell’s refusal to pass. Mitchell took 35 shots and 21 free throws to score 42 points – he had just one assist in 43 minutes.
Despite Talk ‘N’ Text’s handicap, the Texters ignited a 13-2 surge early in the third period and were behind by only six with 7:06 to go. But Ginebra wouldn’t collapse. A Mitchell triple reduced the margin back to six with 25.5 seconds left. Then, coach Alfrancis Chua sent in Caguioa for the icing on the cake. Caguioa, ending an 11-game sit-out due to a ligament strain in his left knee, put in two free throws to end the scoring. The Good News rang out loud and clear.