SMART CLARK GIGA CITY — Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero revealed that the team reached a point where it was about to send Ian Sangalang out of the bubble just to have his injured back treated.
The 6-foot-7 slotman actually missed one game early in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup when the Hotshots took on the Meralco Bolts. With him sitting out, they lost that match in overtime, 104-109.
“Merong time na talagang parang ilalabas namin si Ian because kailangan i-treat ‘yung injury niya,” said the 2018 Coach of the Year, since last October, the league allowed the departure of players with injury concerns.
However, Sangalang didn’t want to go.
“Siya mismo ‘yung nagsabi na, ‘Coach, hindi. Laban ako rito,'” Victolero said.
That Meralco game ended up being the only one Sangalang would miss, as he continued his duties with Magnolia. For Victolero, seeing one of their leaders go to war with them despite his situation has inspired the squad.
“Talagang pinapasalamatan ng buong team ‘yun, ng mga teammates niya kasi malaking inspiration sa’min si Ian eh,” said the 2018 Coach of the Year.
“And also thankful sa lahat ng PTs na talagang tumatrabaho kay Ian.”
Come Sunday, the 28-year-old from Lubao — hurt back and all — came up with his best scoring outing yet this conference. He saved the Hotshots from the hands of an upset-hungry NorthPort.
The Batang Pier melted a 20-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to just four with less than three minutes left to play. Sangalang then scored on a lay-up and split his freebies to score Magnolia’s last three points to get the 83-76 win.
The seven-year pro out of San Sebastian finished with 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting, along with nine rebounds and a block. He led the Hotshots to their fifth consecutive victory, putting them in position for a quarterfinal trip.
“‘Di ko na iniisip ano ‘yung sakit na nararamdaman ko ngayon. Importante sa’kin ‘yung makatulong ako sa team, ‘yung ibigay ko ‘yung best ko every game,” said Sangalang, who was averaging 13.4 points and 8.0 board prior to Sunday.
“Thankful ako sa mga PTs namin na sumusuporta sa’kin.”
Victolero could not feel more proud to have Sangalang on his team.
“Very happy and very proud of Ian kasi talagang grabe ‘yung puso niyang bata. I mean, masakit ‘yung likod niya but gusto pa rin niya mag-stay para makatulong sa team.”