PAGADIAN, ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR — Old reliables Leo Najorda and Chito Jaime showed up when Petra Cement-Roxas needed them the most.
The two veterans boosted the Vanguards to a 91-84 victory over Zamboanga City, and a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three semifinals round two of the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup.
Roxas trailed almost the whole regulation, but Jaime and Najorda made the shots that matter to send the match to an extra period.
Down 71-75, Jaime was at the right place at the right time for a putback after a miss by Jhong Bondoc.
“Si Leo kilala naman ng lahat si Leo. Kahit noong naglalaro pa siya sa PBA talagang ayaw magpatalo ng batang ‘yan,” said Vanguards head coach Eddie Laure.
Then in the extra period, the NCAA Season 79 MVP erupted for Roxas’ first seven points on a three, a fadeaway, and a jumper.
The 37-year-old Jaime followed suit with a triple of his own before putting in a layup, 87-81, with 1:09 left to give the Vanguards the comeback win.
“Nagpapasalamat ako na nandiyan si Leo at Chito kasi dinadala talaga nila ‘yung team namin. ‘Yung leadership nila talagang nangingibabaw,” shared Laure.
Jaime left the bubble during the elimination round and missed Roxas’ last three games prior to the playoffs as he was called up by Rain or Shine 3×3 in Manila.
But he returned just in time for the playoffs.
“Gusto munang tapusin ni Chito ang Chooks-to-Go VisMin, then after namin saka siya babalik sa Rain or Shine,” bared Laure.
“Laking pasalamat namin na bumalik si Chito sa team namin kasi malaking difference talaga ang nagagawa niya saka napamahal na rin talaga siya sa team kasi turingan namin dito pamilya talaga.”
More than those big baskets that put Roxas’ one foot in the Mindanao Leg Finals, the two veterans offered much more than that.
It is the experience and composure of the two, considering they’ve been in these kinds of moments, playoff basketball.
“‘Yung experience nila yun naman ang binabayaran sa kanila dito. Kung paano nila dalhin ‘yung mga bata na kakampi,” said the Vanguards head tactician.
But the first-time head coach knows one win is not enough in a best-of-three series, especially against an experienced Zamboanga City squad.
Laure wants to address his team’s slow starts that caused them a lot of energy to claw back in the game.
“Iko-correct namin ‘yung slow start kasi mahirap talaga maghabol ng ganon kalaki. Mas nakakapagod.”