Diminutive Talk ‘N Text guard Jimmy Alapag played what was arguably the best game of his PBA career Sunday night, scoring 29 points on a mere 14 shots in a heartbreaking Game Seven loss to the B-MEG Llamados.
He had struggled for much of the PBA finals. After averaging 12.3 points per game in the elimination round, he saw his production drop to just 7.2 points through six games of the PBA finals.
Alapag, one of the PBA’s most prolific and efficient scorers, had such a tough series, even being called out, alongside teammate Ranidel De Ocampo, as being on “a vacation” by coach Chot Reyes.
Many things weighed heavily on Alapag’s mind and body. He was dealing with personal tragedy, with both his father and brother suffering serious health concerns just weeks before. He was also hitting a wall physically, having foregone his break by directly reported to the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team after his season ended last year.
But in Game Seven, the biggest of stages in the game of basketball, it was Alapag – the leader, the 10-time All-star, and the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player – who took over the game for the Tropang Texters.
Here I come to save the day, Alapag seemed to say, with every dribble, every pass and every shot that swished through the net. Here I come, he said, and didn’t stop going at the B-MEG defense.
By the end of period, he had finished with 14 points to total 25 in the game through three quarters.
And to top things off, he opened the fourth quarter with one of his patented long three-pointers from what Talk ‘N Text likes to call “Jimmy range,” named for his uncanny ability to remain accurate even 30-foot away from the basket.
His free throw gave Talk ‘N Text a 69-60 lead, before B-MEG went on its late charge. And even though the Tropang Texters lost, Reyes was all praises for his veteran leader.
“Jimmy played the game of his life,” said Reyes, who gave a clue as to why Alapag was so motivated to play well.
“That may be the last time his father can watch him play.”
Alapag’s 73-year-old father Crispin was diagnosed with cancer last month, and Alapag made a trip to the United States before the Tropang Texters’ semifinal series against the Barako Bull Energy. Whether his father was in his thoughts while on the court, Alapag certainly played this one like it was the last basketball game that would ever matter.
He pushed himself as hard as he can, pushed as hard as his body would let him in a near-superhuman effort from the little guy with the biggest of hearts.
And in the end, he played himself until he had to be carried off the floor by teammates in the dying minutes of regulation.
He suffered a case of cramps, and though he would later return in the overtime period, the image of him being lifted of the floor was a fitting end to one of Alapag’s most memorable performances.
“We gave it our all,” said Reyes of his team’s effort. “We left everything on the floor. But it wasn’t meant to be.”
Nobody embodied that in Game Seven more than their captain, their All-star, their MVP. 29 points in 32 minutes, including seven three-pointers, but it still wasn’t enough. He played himself until he broke, but it wasn’t enough.
He came to save day, and though it wasn’t meant to be – Jimmy Alapag came pretty darn close.
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