The first time is always the sweetest, and for two-time Most Valuable Player Danny Ildefonso, it’s never too late, even after 14 seasons in the PBA.
The 34-year-old pride of Pangasinan nailed the game-winning jumper at the buzzer to lift the underdog Petron Blaze Boosters to a thrilling 89-88 win over the Grand Slam-seeking Talk N Text Tropang Texters at the start of Game 1 of their PBA Governors Cup best-of-seven finals series.
“First time ko naka-winning shot sa career ko,” said Ildefonso, who received warm congratulations from Petron Blaze coach Ato Agustin upon hearing it.
“I think kagustuhan ng Diyos manalo kami,” added Ildefonso. “In fact, ‘yung tira na ‘iyon it was God who took that winning shot.”
Agustin also heaped praises on his veteran slotman.
“Danny I. used his experience and his leadership,” added Agustin.
Ildefonso was responsible for the Boosters’ last two plays. He was a key figure in the team’s last defensive stop when he helped Arwind Santos force a turnover against Talk ‘N Text guard Larry Fonacier.
The 6-foot-5 Ildefonso completed the steal and converted an unmolested fastbreak lay-up at the other end.
After Jimmy Alapag and Ryan Reyes conspired in the next play to give Talk ‘N Text its last taste of the lead at 88-87, Ildefonso and co. kept their composure for the final possession.
The play was intended for import Anthony Grundy, who was set up for a pick-and-roll. He found a wide open Ildefonso for the buzzer-beating jumper from the right baseline to the delight of Petron fans.
For Ildefonso, who has been riddled by injuries in the latter stages of his career, moments like this has been hard to come by.
But even for a guy who has already won seven championships and two Most Valuable Player awards, first-time moments could still happen.
And as Ildefonso himself would tell you, it’d taste just as sweet.
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