Things weren’t going the way of Calvin Abueva early in Phoenix Super LPG’s 2020 PBA Philippine Cup match versus NLEX Road Warriors on Monday night — his first game back after serving an indefinite suspension that lasted 16 months.
He checked in at the 7:32-mark of the opening period for JC Intal. But just 10 seconds later, he was whistled for an offensive foul while attacking the rim hard and looking for his first bucket.
Abueva tried once more through a lay-up with 6:18 to go, but he missed. And it was the same result when he fired a jumper with 5:50 on the clock. Chalk up three failed attempts on his part.
Others would likely feel frustrated with such a start. But the Kapampangan cager wanted to prove that a different Beast returned to the PBA. So he simply looked for ways to calm himself down.
“First attempt ko offensive foul, and then second and third attempt, wala. Ni-remind ko sa sarili ko na papaano ba ako magco-cool down dito sa laro,” said Abueva, who last played back in June 2, 2019.
And then, he suddenly remembered his inspiration; his reason for being on the court — his family.
“‘Yung naiisip ko hindi para sa’kin kundi para sa pamilya ko, para sa lola ko, sana … maging malakas sa dinadanasan niya ngayon,” said Abueva, referring to his ever-supportive Lola Siony.
“At para sa anak ko rin ‘tong ginagawa ko,” added the 32-year-old forward, who is a father to five children.
“‘Yun ‘yung mental ko, kung papaano magiging masaya ang mga anak ko.”
That clearly helped him stay on track. Abueva finally made his first basket at the 5:25 mark after a strong drive to the hoop, and that got him going — much to the benefit and, of course, the delight of the Fuel Masters.
And Abueva showed the nerves of steel that have made him one of the top forwards in the league when he made a floater with 42.4 seconds left to stretch a one-point lead to three, 110-107.
It gave the Fuel Masters the edge they needed. They went on to reign triumphant, 114-110, to collect their fourth win in six games and to give their beloved brother the welcome he deserves.
“Sa akin, ‘yung dikit na laro is a good part of me kasi hindi naman basta-basta ang NLEX eh. Binibigay din nila ‘yung best nila at ‘yung best nila na-short lang sa bandang huli,” he said.
Abueva finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists in over 30 minutes of play in a truly impressive return. But beyond his own outing, he’s proud that they pulled off the thrilling victory.
“Nagawa namin ‘yung kailangan gawin at tinuro ni Coach [Topex Robinson] in the last quarter. Bigay buhos lahat ‘yun para sa team.”