MANILA - Magnolia big man Ian Sangalang is ready to keep playing through back pain as the Hotshots continue their pursuit of a quarterfinals spot in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.
Sangalang had to miss one game in the conference due to the injury, and head coach Chito Victolero has been carefully managing his playing time, keeping him below 30 minutes if possible. Despite the minutes restriction, Sangalang has continued to produce at a high level for the Hotshots.
On Sunday, he put up a team-high 23 points and nine rebounds in an 83-76 victory over the NorthPort Batang Pier that kept them on track for a playoff spot. He is currently averaging 14.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Afterward, Sangalang said he is simply not dwelling on the pain he feels at the moment and instead focusing on their goals as a team.
"Hindi ko iniisip kung ano 'yung sakit na nararamdaman ko ngayon. Importante sa akin, 'yung makatulong ako sa team, 'yung ibigay ko 'yung best ko every game," he explained.
The big man gave plenty of credit to their physical therapists who get him ready every game, but Victolero stressed that praise must first go to Sangalang who refused to leave the team even with the injury.
"Merong time na talagang parang ilalabas namin si Ian because kailangan i-treat ang injury niya," Victolero revealed. "But you know, siya mismo ang nagsabi na, 'Coach, hindi, laban ako dito.'"
"So I'm very happy, I'm very proud for Ian kasi talagang grabe 'yung puso ng bata. I mean, masakit 'yung likod niya, but gusto pa rin niyang mag-stay para makatulong sa team," he added.
"And, 'yun talagang pinapasalamatan ng buong team 'yun, ng mga teammates niya na and'yan siya. Kasi malaking inspiration sa amin si Ian eh."
The Hotshots needed Sangalang's big game against NorthPort, as Paul Lee was shackled to just 14 points after a 31-point outing the night before. Sangalang outplayed NorthPort counterpart Christian Standhardinger, and hit the difficult layup with over two minutes to go that gave the Hotshots some breathing room after the Batang Pier knocked on the door.
Thanks in large part to Sangalang's performance, Magnolia extended its winning streak to five games and improved to 6-4. They are now in a three-way tie with Meralco and Alaska at the middle of the league table.
According to Victolero, they will continue to monitor Sangalang's minutes and ensure that he does not aggravate his injury.
"But of course," he added, "Sa mga panahon na ganito na talagang kailangan namin manalo, alam naman ni Ian 'yun na kailangan niya talagang mag-extend na kaunti sa oras niya."