ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR — KCS-Mandaue showed a much better performance in Game Two of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup best-of-five Southern Finals – keeping in striking distance the whole game.
Not until big men Michael Mabulac and Jay Collado decided to take over the game for Jumbo Plastic-Basilan.
After seeing their once 12-point advantage trimmed down to two, the two bigs buckled down to work.
Mabulac and Collado scored 11 of Basilan’s last 13 points to ultimately seal a 96-91 victory over Mandaue in Game Two. The team now moves a win away from the season sweep, Thursday at the Pagadian City Gymnasium.
“They are veterans. They are always ready to perform, lalo na sa crucial stage. They complement each other kasi si Michael strong inside, si Jay may outside shooting,” said head coach Jerson Cabiltes.
And that they showed in their game stats.
Mabulac finished with 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Collado was a sniper with 17 points, going 3-of-7 from downtown, to go with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
“Totoo ‘yung sinabi ni coach tungkol sa amin ni Jay. Nasa Basilan pa lang kami, napansin ko na okay ‘yung combo namin ni Jay kasi threat siya sa labas, tapos ako naman sa loob. Luluwag ‘yung depensa kapag ganon,” said the Jose Rizal University product.
“Nakita rin siguro ni coach na hindi kami magsasapawan ni Mike kasi nga sa ilalim siya, ako, pwede akong maglaro sa labas. Pwede rin akong maging decoy para mapasahan ko siya sa low post,” Collado followed.
But what pushed them really to put the finishing touches in the all-important Game Two?
It was repaying the coaching staff’s trust in them to stay on the floor down the stretch, with KCS just knocking down Basilan’s door.
“Laging nire-remind sa akin ni coach na basta kada game, sa akin niya ibibigay ‘yung dulo. Kasi matagal ko na siyang kasama, so malaki ang tiwala niya sa akin,” said Collado.
“Kapag crucial, hindi ka naman gagamitin ng coach mo kung hindi siya nagtitiwala sa game mo. So inisip ko talaga na kailangan magpakita talaga ako ng laro ko,” Mabulac seconded.
Both, though, agreed that it was not the best of games for the Peace Riders.
Basilan was a complete dominant force in the league, with only one of their first 11 games a close affair – an 83-77 win over Iligan last July 17.
“Sa totoo lang, ito na yata ‘yung pinakamahirap na game namin. Talagang lumaban sila,” said the Mythical Team member.
One factor that Mabulac saw was KCS’ hot shooting.
Indeed, Mandaue shot the lights out, going 33-of-62 from the field, a whopping 53.2 percent. The Visayas champs also converted 16 of their 35 attempts from deep.
“Mag-aadjust pa kami sa mga shooters nila kasi talagang mainit silang lahat noong Game Two hanggang huli,” said the 6-foot-4 inside operator.
Basilan is ready to leave it all on the floor today when it plays Game Three at 6 pm.
They have been away from their families for four months already, or since they went to Basilan for a bubble training last April. Seeing their loved ones again surely would be an additional motivation for the them.
“All out kami lagi sa game para rin makauwi na kami sa mga pamilya namin,” said Mabulac, showing his soft spot.