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Justin Arana repays Allyn Bulanadi’s trust with game-winner

Justin Arana made the biggest plays of the game in Converge’s 92-90 win over Blackwater to stay alive in the playoff hunt of the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup.

And he did it all on both ends of the court thanks to the trust of his coaches and teammates.

Down 88-90 late in the match, the 6-foot-7 rookie out of Arellano University made a deuce off the dish of Allyn Bulanadi to tie the game with 33.1 seconds to go.

Then on the other end, he erased the layup attempt of Jvee Casio, leading to his eventual game-winning layup with 8.4 ticks left. And that shot also came off Bulanadi.

“Si Allyn lagi na rin akong sinasabihan na ‘once nasa akin yung bola ready ka lang, aggressive ka lang kasi hahanapin kita’. Yun ang lagi niyang sinasabi sa akin every game,” shared Arana after the FiberXers improved to 5-6 to rise to eighth seed, Wednesday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Thankful ako sa kanya na binigay niya sa akin and nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

But what led to his inspired showing down the stretch was the trust of his coaches despite his uneventful first three periods.

After the third frame, Arana was 1-of-5 from the field for just four points. Still, Converge head coach Jeffrey Cariaso opted to field the big man.

There, Arana went clutch for the crucial victory. A loss by Rain or Shine later today will allow the FiberXers to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.

“Nagkalat ako nung una, so mindset ko na lang gusto kong bumawi. Kasi if matalo kami, ito na ‘yung last game eh,” said Arana, who finished with 13 points on 4-of-9 clip from the field with five rebounds.

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“Sobrang thankful ako sa coaches ko kasi kahit gaano kapangit yung pinakita ko nung una, stick pa rin sila sa akin. Binabalik pa rin nila ako and may tiwala pa rin sila sa akin.”

Cariaso said that letting his rookies get sufficient playing time and experience is a must for them to grow.

Aside from Arana, the other rookies of the FiberXers are Jeo Ambohot, Tyrus Hill, and the injured Kurt Lojera.

“The best way you learn is to be out there, so nandoon kami. We understand that the way for him (Arana) and our other rookies to improve is to throw them out there and gain experience,” said Cariaso.

Arana, specifically, earned the trust of the coaching staff due to his top-grade work ethic combined with his already-evident skills. Both led to his selection as the fourth overall in the past draft.

And that trust was something Arana looks to repay every time he’s on the floor.

“What I like about him is his work ethic. I think Mav can speak for him, also saying that he’s one of the hardest workers. He’s there early, leaves late,” shared the head coach.

“Trusting him isn’t difficult. He showed that he deserved that tonight.”

The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.

Written By

Just a kid from Cavite trying to make a difference.

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