Fatigued, foul-plagued, slightly injured and all, tireless Gilas Pilipinas stalwart JP Erram simply would not be denied in his return to mother team Blackwater Elite.
Despite everything, the 6-foot-7 slotman still rose to the ocassion, lifting the unbeaten Elite on his shoulders en route to their gritty 113-111 comeback victory against the Northport Batang Pier, to tie Ginebra on top with identical 3-0 slates, early in the 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup on Wednesday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Fresh from an exhausting back-to-back national team stint in the 18th Asian Games and the fourth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, Erram shrugged off fatigue by tallying 19 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in nearly 30 minutes of action for Blackwater, who clawed back from an 18-point first half deficit.
“Mahirap (itong panalo na ‘to). Mahirap lalo na sa akin kasi pagod pa eh,” said Erram, who dropped four points, six rebounds, a steal and a block in Gilas’ 92-81 win over Qatar just this Monday.
Fatigue wasn’t the only thing Erram had to battle in this game, as he also played through a slight ankle injury after slipping on a rebound play midway through the third period.
“Oo, medyo namamaga pa pero ayun, kailangan itawid. Pero pahinga lang bukas tapos kaya naman,” assured the 29-year-old slotman.
Proving his commitment to mother team after a maximum contract extension last month, Erram returned right away in the fourth quarter and led Elite’s uprising from a 77-87 deficit to knot the ball game at 94-all, before being hit by another hurdle as him committed his fifth foul, with 5:46 still to go.
Good thing for him, his teammates stepped up, which barely surprised the Ateneo standout.
“Sabi sa akin ni coach Bong [Ramos] (nung five fouls na’ko), ‘Mamaya ka muna’. Sabi ko, ‘Coach, ayos lang so long as lamang tayo, walang problema sa akin’,” he said.
“At least paubaya ako, lahat naman ng teammates ko kayang maglaro sa PBA.”
This leadership even off the court can be attributed to his national team stint, according to Erram.
“Malaking tulong yun for me pagdating sa pagiging leader ng team. Kasi yun nga, yung mga mas bata sa amin, naglu-look up sa amin. Ang laking tulong,” he admitted.
“Mas umangat pa kumpyansa ko. Laking tulong yung mga na-experience ko sa teamates ko sa Gilas. Yung mga tinuturo nila sa akin. Nadadala ko sya sa team ko, naa-apply ko siya.”
True enough, Erram was the one who glued Elite in the middle of a slow 35-53 star,t which they overturned in the second half, putting his faith even in back-up center Chris Javier, who stepped up in his absence with key back-to-back hits in the dying minutes for a huge 108-101 lead.
That sealed the deal for Elite on their way to their franchise-best 3-0 start.
In spite of an unbeaten run, Erram and the rest of the Elite do not want to get ahead of themselves, calling his teammates to stay grounded as they continue to turn heads this conference after a one-win outing in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Sana (tuloy tuloy na). Hoping and praying na yun ang mangyari. Hindi namin iniisip expectations eh. Basta every game, focus kami, ready lang kami.”
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