With a little over five minutes to go in Game Two of the Philippine Cup finals, reigning PBA Most Valuable Player Jimmy Alapag exploded into lane, leaving his defender behind. He elevated for an open layup — a gimme, by all accounts — and watched it bounce out.
It was reminiscent of his missed shot in Game Five of the semifinals against Petron Blaze, a layup that could have put the game away with seconds to play.
And here it was again, in the Philippine Cup finals, and that shot still wouldn’t fall.
But it didn’t matter. Because when the Tropang Texters needed Alapag — really needed him — he’s been there to save the day.
It’s been a low-profile season for Alapag, who missed all but five elimination round games. He is averaging career-lows in minutes, points, rebounds, assists and shot attempts. With budding superstar Jason Castro taking on a heavier load this year, Alapag hasn’t had to produce as much as he had in the past.
But he’s been excellent in picking and choosing his spots.
Even though he missed the gimme layup in Game Five of the semis, it was Alapag who nailed a booming three-pointer that served as the go-ahead basket moments earlier, saving the Tropang Texters from elimination.
One game later, it was Alapag who played hero yet again, scoring 29 points and dishing 10 assists as Talk ‘N Text overcame a 3-1 deficit and tied the series heading into a decisive Game Seven.
And here he was again in Game Two of the PBA finals. With Gary David pouring 21 of his 30 points in the first half, it was Alapag who went mano y mano with the Powerade main man as the Tropang Texters stayed on top despite the explosion..
And in the face of a fierce Powerade rally that cut the lead down to just one point at 94-93, it was Alapag, after a Larry Fonacier layup extended the lead to three points, who hit one of his patented 28-foot three-pointers that sealed the win yet again. Alapag finished with a team-high 23 points as Talk ‘N Text went up 2-0 in finals series.
And none of that surprises Talk ‘N Text coach Chot Reyes.
“Nothing out of the ordinary for Jimmy,” Reyes said. “Which is another way of saying extraordinary.”
The series is far from over, and the Tropang Texters may yet again need the league MVP to save the day. He may miss now and again — that happens to the best of them. But when it really counts he’s been there for them, as he always has been.
Two more “ordinary” performances from Alapag, and they might be hoisting another championship trophy. Two wins away, and Jimmy would have done it yet again.
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