MANILA, Philippines -- A subpar shooting performance did not deter Rey Nambatac from taking the biggest shot of the game in their showdown against Barangay Ginebra in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.
With Rain or Shine down three points, 76-73, with just six seconds to go, Nambatac got the ball from Javee Mocon, evaded the defense of Aljon Mariano, and coolly knocked down the game-tying three-pointer.
It was just his second field goal of the contest, but his teammate showed no hesitation in giving him the ball, and his coach showed no surprise that he made a big shot after struggling all game long.
"He likes that position, that he'll take those shots," ROS coach Caloy Garcia said after the game.
The Elasto Painters went on to take an 85-82 win in overtime, with Nambatac finishing with eight points, six rebounds, and four assists in 33 minutes of playing time. They took the solo lead in the league standings, with a 4-1 win-loss record.
"Actually, hindi talaga sa akin 'yung play," Nambatac told ABS-CBN News after the game. "Kaya lang, nagka-broken play. Sumakto lang din na napa-commit ni Javee 'yung bantay niya, tapos nagkaroon ako ng chance ma-open. Sakot din pinasa ni Javee sa akin."
"Credit din kay Javee kasi tiwala siya sa akin kahit na maalat ako buong game," he added.
Nambatac stressed that his poor shooting night -- he would end up just two-of-12 from the field -- did not affect his confidence. His first priority, he said, was to involve his teammates and lead them from the point guard position.
"Kahit maalat ka buong game, kailangan may ma-contribute ka sa team by playing defense, rebounds, assist," he added. "Ako kasi, ang mindset ko ngayon, hindi na look to score. Si Coach Caloy, point guard position niya na ako nilagay kay ang mindset ko, i-involve ko muna mga teammates ko."
This is not the first time in the conference that Nambatac has shrugged off early shooting woes to nail a big shot for the Elasto Painters.
Against San Miguel Beer last October 13, Nambatac missed his first six shots before drilling the dagger three-pointer with just 13 seconds to play for an 85-81 ROS lead. They went on to win 87-83 against the defending All-Filipino champions.
After that game, Garcia said he did not think of yanking Nambatac from the floor even with his poor shooting. After his clutch performance against Ginebra, Garcia once again had nothing but praise for the former Letran star.
"Rey is a different kind of player," said Garcia. "He's gonna be the future of the PBA. He's gonna be a superstar, eventually."
For Nambatac, who struggled to crack the Rain or Shine rotation in his first conference with the team, his coach's words fuel his motivation.
He can still remember when he could barely see minutes for the Elasto Painters during the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup as a rookie, as the team featured several veteran guards including Chris Tiu, James Yap, and Maverick Ahanmisi.
"To be honest, muntik na din ako gumive up sa PBA, kasi pag pasok ko sa PBA, sa Rain or Shine, sobrang struggling talaga dahil hindi ako nabibigyan ng playing time noon," he recalled. "Kasi loaded din sa guards nung pumasok ako."
He began to see more minutes by the third conference, and in his sophomore season, Nambatac established himself as a key player for Garcia's squad.
Nambatac credits his family and loved ones for continually lifting his spirits, but also gives plenty of props to Garcia himself, as the coach kept his faith in him.
"All credit to Coach Caloy for not giving up on me," he said. "Talagang tinyaga niya ako, at hinanapan niya ng paraan para mapabilang ako sa rotation. Nilagay niya ako sa PG position, which is hindi ko position talaga, pero napaganda pa dahil doon nag-start na magkaroon ako ng playing time."
"I just want to give back to Coach Caloy, na masukilian ko man lang 'yung tiwala ni Coach sa akin," he added.
Nambatac, 26, is averaging 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game for the Elasto Painters so far in the All-Filipino Cup.