Joseph Gabayni was seldom used by head coach Jerry Codiñera during the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup eliminations, but a different Gabayni is showing up in Racal’s best-of-three Finals showdown against Cignal-San Beda HD Hawkeyes.
Back in Game One, the 23-year-old Arellano transferee scored eight points and grabbed two rebounds — significantly higher than the norms of 1.9 points on a 35 percent shooting clip, 2.2 rebounds, and 0.2 blocks he posted back in the elimination round.
And on Game Two Monday night, Gabayni continued to roll. This time, he flirted with a double-double of nine markers on 4-of-8 shooting and 10 caroms in 24 minutes, on top of the 100-90 victory to equalize the series.
And for the six-foot-six big man, his stellar play came from the challenge he had imposed on himself after a pre-game conversation between him and his head tactician.
“Actually before this game, nag-usap kami ni Coach Jerry about nga sa nilalaro ko this championship. Sabi niya sa’kin, ok lang umiskor ka ng eight points, rumebound ka ng eight rebounds kasi yun lang magagawa mo.
“Sabi ko coach, kaya ko umiskor ng 10 points, 10 rebounds. Ngayon, one point short ako eh. Ginawa ko naman yun para makatulong sa team namin,” elaborated Gabayni shortly after Game Two.
But Gabayni insisted that scoring is not his main goal. Instead, he is more concerned with how he can haul down rebounds to help the Tile Master even more.
“Wala akong pakialam kung ‘di ako maka-score. Yung score sa’kin, bonus na lang eh. Ang importante sa’kin is yung rebounds. Yung 10 rebounds na natulong ko para sa team namin, yun,” he added.
For two games now, Gabayni has clearly become Racal’s x-factor off the bench, and the hustle he has been displaying is truly commendable. And for him, he is more than ready to provide that hustle Racal needs from him.
“Oo naman,” Gabayni vowed.
“Kung papasok ako, ipo-provide ko yun (hustle). ‘Pag nasa loob ako, gagawin ko yung makakaya ko para maka-tulong at ma-provide yung hustle na yun.”
As the Tile Master sent the series to a deciding Game Three, Gabayni and his team will be heading into the bout without any pressure as they aim to secure the franchise’s first-ever D-League crown since 2014.
“Nothing to lose na kami. Nandito na kami eh. Eenjoyin na lang namin yung series. Kung makuha yung championship, thank you kay God. Sana makuha namin,” Gabayni said wistfully.
“Siyempre tulong-tulong kami as a team. ‘Di naman makukuha ng isang tao lang yan eh, lahat dapat gagawa.”