MANILA, Philippines -- Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia did not consider taking Rey Nambatac off the floor during crunch time, despite the guard's struggles in their PBA Philippine Cup game against San Miguel on Tuesday.
Heading into the final minute of the contest, Nambatac had missed his first six attempts against the Beermen, and his lone point of the game came off a split at the line with 1:11 to go for an 81-75 ROS lead.
But the Beermen clawed their way back, and were just down by one point, 82-81, after a three-pointer by Terrence Romeo with 27 seconds to go.
That was when Nambatac repaid Garcia's faith in him, as he secured the loose ball after Javee Mocon lost control, thanks to a double-team by SMB's Chris Ross and Moala Tautuaa. With time winding down, he drilled a huge three-pointer that gave the Elasto Painters some much needed breathing room with 12 seconds to go.
"I don't look at that," Garcia later said of Nambatac's struggles from the field.
"Basically, it doesn't matter if you're zero of eight, zero of nine," he explained. "I told them if you're open, you can take those shots."
The Elasto Painters went on to win the game, 87-83, with Mocon icing the game at the free throw line.
Garcia praised Nambatac's presence of mind in the clutch, especially after their initial play broke down.
"Kahit medyo nagkagulo doon, he was able to pick up the ball. You see the maturity in him," the coach said of Nambatac. "He knew the time, and he took the biggest shot of the game."
Nambatac finished with just four points, having gone one-of-seven from the field. He also had seven rebounds and four assists, and was still a team-high plus-13 despite his poor shooting. Thanks in part to his clutch heroics, the Elasto Painters started their All-Filipino campaign on a strong note.
"This is a good test right away," Garcia said of their game against SMB. "We're playing against the No. 1 team, and maybe we can gauge ourselves, kung how good are we, how well in shape we are."
"I'm happy about how we played, but knowing teams like San Miguel, Ginebra, those teams, 'pag humahaba pa 'yung eliminations, they get better kasi puro experienced players 'yan eh," he added.
"Here we have to trust on our rookies to give some time for our veterans, kasi we play again after two days. So like I said, ang labanan din dito is 'yung health and probably the guys coming off the bench."