MANILA, Philippines -- Magnolia guard Jiovani Jalalon felt that his prayers were answered after helping the Hotshots get past the NLEX Road Warriors in their do-or-die quarter-final showdown on Sunday night.
Jalalon emerged as the Player of the Game after scoring seven of his 16 points in overtime, to go along with seven rebounds, six assists, and two crucial steals in 31 minutes.
The guard went 3-of-3 from the field in the extra period, banking in a three-pointer with 1:46 to play to give Magnolia a 106-100 advantage. Immediately afterward, he put his hands together in prayer and was seen shouting, 'Thank you, Lord.'
"Tsamba lang talaga 'yun," said Jalalon after the Hotshots held on for a 112-106 win in Game 3 that confirmed their place in the semifinals of the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup.
"Nakita ko 'yung shot-clock, wala na, pa-zero na. And then nakita ko si Calvin [Oftana], and then binato ko na lang 'yung bola. Tsamba. Tsamba lang talaga," he added. "Wala na, nothing to lose na talaga 'yung bola, so kailangan na itira. Thank you to the Lord na binigay niya 'yung shot."
Jalalon credited his coaches for giving him an opportunity in the end game, after sitting out for most of the fourth quarter. The guard was subbed out with under nine minutes to play in regulation and didn't return until there was just a minute to go.
His impact was immediate: Jalalon forced a turnover on Kevin Alas with under 30 seconds left, opening the door for Paul Lee's game-tying triple with 14 seconds to go. Jalalon then ensured that the game will go to an extra period as he forced another turnover, this time on Oftana, in NLEX's final possession of the fourth period.
"Sobrang nagpapasalamat ako kila coach, kasi noong fourth quarter, two minutes, sabi ko sa mga coaches, 'Coach, gusto ko maglaro.' Kasi nga, parang gigil na gigil na ako sa labas. So buti pinagbigyan nila ako," said Jalalon.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero apologized afterward for "forgetting" about Jalalon in the fourth quarter, although he chalked it up to their match-up against the Road Warriors.
"I would like to say sorry to Jio. It's my fault, medyo nakalimutan ko siya noong fourth quarter," said Victolero.
"'Yung flow lang ng game, so I don't know kung ano ang ima-match up ko sa kanya. Actually, against NLEX, that's my dilemma," he explained. "All of their wing guys, guards are tall, so we have a hard time to match up on Oftana, on [Don] Trollano."
With Victolero unwilling to risk his favored three-guard line-up against the taller NLEX wings, Jalalon was the odd man out on Sunday night until the closing stages, when he was subbed in for Rome dela Rosa.
The coach was pleased to see that his gamble paid off, as Jalalon delivered in crunch time.
"Noong ginamit ko si Jio, he's ready. Sa mata pa lang, parang tinitingnan niya ako: 'Coach, magsisisi ka kasi 'di mo ako ginagamit'," said Victolero.
With Jalalon energized by his long rest, Victolero had no hesitation about repeatedly going to the guard in overtime. Jalalon came through with a couple of crucial layups against Oftana's defense, before drilling the triple that all but sealed the win.
"I told Jio to stay positive because I will go to him on every possession. Kita niyo naman, from start ng pagpasok niya hanggang overtime, I want to go to Jio because I know he's fresh, I know he wants to win," said Victolero.
"He looks into my eyes, sabi niya sa akin, 'I told you coach, I told you.' 'Yun pa lang, alam ko na na gusto niyang manalo, and gusto niyang dalhin 'yung game namin. Ayun nga, I would like to say sorry to him dahil medyo matagal siya doon sa bench."