MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University big man Justine Baltazar was not about to let an illness stop him from dominating their game against University of the East (UE) on Wednesday.
Baltazar fell ill after their game against Ateneo de Manila University last Sunday, a 77-69 loss. The exhaustion from that game led him to get the flu, and the veteran had to rest ahead of their crucial showdown against the Red Warriors.
Yet the notion of sitting out the game didn't cross Baltazar's mind.
"Hindi ako pwedeng hindi maglaro. Kailangan ako sa court," said Baltazar.
It was not just Baltazar who was sick: La Salle coach Gian Nazario said that seven of their players were ill after the Ateneo game, including veteran guards Aljun Melecio and Andrei Caracut. It was Baltazar who played longest among them, as he was on the court for 37 minutes and 34 seconds against UE.
"Wala kaming big man eh," said Baltazar. "Ang dami naming mga injury, ang daming may sakit, kaya kailangan kong maglaro."
"At saka kailangan namin bumawi sa UE, tinalo kami," he added, referring to their 89-88 loss to the Red Warriors in the first round. "Ayaw ko nang maulit 'yun, kasi masakit sa amin talaga, UE kalaban."
Baltazar made sure that they won't suffer another upset defeat. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, eight of which came in a crucial stretch that gave the Green Archers the lead for good. Not even UE big man Alex Diakhite had an answer for Baltazar, who finished with 23 points.
The La Salle center added 12 rebounds and three assists, and nailed the free throws with 14.2 seconds that pegged the final score.
"Kahit pagod na pagod na ako, kailangan ko pa rin maglaro kasi sabi ni coach, wala nang papalit sa akin," said Baltazar.
"Dikit lang 'yung score eh, kaya kailangan ko pa ring mag-trabaho," he added.
The victory gave the Green Archers a 5-5 win-loss record, putting them in the thick of the fight for a spot in the Final 4.
Baltazar said they cannot afford to relax in their last four games, if they hope to fulfill their preseason goal and make it back to the semifinals.
"Ilang games pa ba kami, tatlo, apat? Kailangan namin ma-straight 'yun, para makapasok kami sa Final 4, kung papalarin kami," he said.
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