MANILA, Philippines – Star may have lost in heartbreaking fashion to rivals Barangay Ginebra on Sunday night, but its young import, Malcolm Hill, drew praise from both sides following his gutsy performance in the "Manila Clasico."
Only 21 years old, Hill showed guile beyond his age when he baited Ginebra high-flyer Japeth Aguilar into a costly foul with just six-tenths of a second left as he was attempting a three-pointer – with Star trailing 92-95.
The former University of Illinois star coolly drained all three charities to send the game to overtime. Unfortunately, he could not complete his heroics, as Hill fouled out with just under a minute left in the extra period, and Ginebra went on to claim a 105-101 win.
But the forward, who is playing professionally for the very first time in his basketball career, was lauded by Star coach Chito Victolero after his 28-point, 12-rebound performance.
"Malcolm played a very good game," Victolero said of his import, who came in as a replacement for Cinmeon Bowers. "I am happy for him."
"Talagang 'yung effort na binigay niya at 'yung heart na binigay niya sa last three free throws, okay 'yun," he added. "I think 'yung bata, nagi-improve naman."
No less than celebrated Ginebra import Justin Brownlee also offered his praise for Hill, who showed no fear of the moment even as he stepped up to take the pressure-packed charities.
"That shows a lot of heart and a lot of courage," Brownlee said of Hill's clutch trip at the free throw line.
"I was looking on the other side, and we missed how many free throws. He showed great poise and great confidence to make those free throws, and force overtime," he added.
Given how well Hill played in his very first "Clasico," Brownlee is sure that there can only be better things in store for the younger reinforcement.
"He's going to be a great player," Brownlee predicted. "He's already shown us great ability as a young player."
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