Jeff Viernes has never experienced what it’s like playing in a PBA D-League Finals series despite the numerous stints he’s had in the developmental league. But now, the diminutive point guard has a chance to change that narrative.
Viernes scored 17 markers — including the game-winning stepback jumper with 18.2 seconds left — to push the Che’lu-San Sebastian Revellers past Akari-Adamson Falcons, 93-90, and seal their place in the 2018 Aspirant’s Cup Finals.
“Si Coach Steve [Tiu] kasi, yung tiwala niya sa’kin, alam kong buong-buo,” recalled the 28-year-old gunner of the shot.
“Alam kong kahit anong bad game ko, alam ko yung tiwala niya sa’kin hanggang sa dulo maipapanalo ko yung game,” added Viernes, who had been shooting just 6-of-18 from the field prior to converting on the game-winner.
“Luckily, yun nga, nakuha namin yung panalo ngayon. Kahit anong struggle ko from the start ng game hanggang sa dulo, yung pinaka-importanteng basket, yun naman yung nakuha ko so very happy kami lahat.”
The former Hi-Tec City Bangkok reinforcment may have had all the spotlight on him with his end-game brilliance, but he also tipped his hat to the younger ones for playing a big factor in their semis sweep of the Falcons.
“Alam mo naman sa mga ganitong sitwasyon, minsan yung mga bata nagbibigay ng energy at aggressiveness — nadadala rin namin yun, ang laking tulong sa’min,” said Viernes, who also had seven assists in the win.
“Nag-step up yung mga Baste boys ngayon, si [Allyn] Bulanadi, si [Michael] Calisaan — mas lalo yung Calisaan ngayon, naging mas ready siya kahit [kakagaling lang niya] sa injury. Ang laking tulong na nag-step up sila.
“Kung ‘di rin dahil sa kanila, wala rin naman ‘tong panalo. ‘Di rin namin maaabot ang Finals,” he pointed out.
Now, Viernes has a chance to make his D-League return even sweeter — by winning the championship, that is. He himself is hopeful, but he’s also aware that it won’t be an easy task to fulfill.
“Walang kapantay na feeling yun kung makukuha namin ‘to,” said Viernes, who has shared titles with coach Stevenson Tiu in the PCBL with Jumbo Plastic. “Pero ‘di namin basta-basta makukuha yun, paghihirapan pa rin namin.
“‘Di rin basta-basta yung laro ngayon dito.”