He may have been on the sidelines still in crutches, but for Marc Pingris, to see his Magnolia Hotshots win one over the San Miguel Beermen in Game One of the 2018 Philippine Cup Finals is more than enough to make him glad.
The Hotshots’ leader saw first-hand how his teammates made their way back from 20 points down in the third canto en route to a shocking 105-103 victory and to lead the reigning, three-time All-Filipino kings to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“Sobrang proud ako sa kanila,” said Pingris.
“Pinakita talaga nila yung puso nila tonight, na mas malaki yung puso nila, na mas gutom sila.”
One of the things that made Pingris beam with so much pride was the way Ian Sangalang rose to the occasion. The five-year pro had a career-high 29 points — capped by his game-winning freebies off a June Mar Fajardo foul.
“Sobrang proud ako kay Ian,” the 36-year-old utility forward gushed. “Every time na nagte-text ako sa kanya, pagkatapos ng practice or game, ang sabi ko sa kaniya, ngayong wala ako, ikaw muna ang maging vocal dyan, ngayon ikaw muna ang magstep-up.
“Ang gusto ko sa kaniya, yung laro niya before, sinabi ko sa kaniya na lagpasan niya, lagpasan niya yung laro niya dati,” added the eight-time champion.
“Then tignan mo naman ngayon, kahit si June Mar e, talagang kahit papaano, kinakaya-kaya niya.”
There were times in Game One where Pingris was seen cheering heartily for his teammates. And for the 36-year-old, he admitted that the eagerness to suit up is there — this could’ve been his first Finals appearance since 2014.
“Happy ako dahil nasa Finals kami pero sad ako dahil ito yung opportunity na gusto ko ulit maglaro, gusto ko ulit mag-champion,” expressed Pingris.
“So… Maipakita ko lang sa kanila, kahit yung sigaw ko man lang e makatulong.
“Well, nakakaano talaga, gustong-gusto mo talaga,” admitted the 12-year league veteran. “Kung minsan nawawala yung sakit ng tuhod mo eh. Nakakalimutan mong may injury ka pala kapag tumatalon tapos biglang uupo ulit ako.”
Still, there’s no room for celebration for Magnolia, as the series still has a long way to go. The eight-time champion knows that San Miguel will get back at them, but he knows, too, that they’re ready for it as long as they keep playing defense.
“Alam ko naman na the next game, bubuwelo na talaga yung San Miguel, talagang ibibigay talaga nila yung best nila,” Pingris warned. “Yun ngang sinasabi ko, kung bakit tayo nandito sa finals ngayon is yung defense.
“Yun yung naging key kanina ng panalo namin.”