Philip Manalang nailed the biggest shot of his young career last Thursday.
During the 2021 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational final, Basilan-Jumbo Plastic Medical Depot and Nueva Ecija were knotted at 80-all with 1.9 seconds left in overtime.
Off a timeout, Jerson Cabiltes designed a play that was supposed to go to his athletic big man Jaymar Gimpayan.
“The initial play was a lob pass for Gimpayan. We were shouting at Michael [Juico] to pass it because he was open for a season,” recalled Cabiltes.
“Una, yung instruction ni coach, ako yung nag-back pick kay Gimpayan e,” added Manalang. “Tapos nagulo yung depensa nila.
“Sabi ko, tiwala pa rin ako sa sarili ko kasi araw-araw naman ako nag-shooshooting. Kahit nagstra-struggle ako nung first half, nandun pa rin yung tiwala ko sa sarili ko.”
Manalang had been shooting 0-of-8 from the field heading into the closing moments of extra time.
But the product of University of the East never lost confidence in his shot.
Finding himself wide-open at the top of the key after Jay-R Taganas’ tough pick erased his defender Byron Villarias, the 5-foot-10 floor general drained the buzzer-beating triple that gave Basilan the championship and a cool P2-million.
It was his way of giving back to the team after “costing” them a shot at the Lakan Championship last March.
Unfortunately, disaster struck Basilan as a couple of their players turned in positive COVID-19 results.
And one of those players was Manalang.
“Actually kasi yung bubble na yun, ako yung nag-positive sa COVID nun… Ako tsaka si [Anthony] Bringas,” he admitted.
Manalang bared that he felt that he let the team down.
“Tumawag si Coach Jerson sa akin nun tapos yun, umiiyak ako sa kanya na nag-positive ako. Nahihiya ako sa kanila since ako pa yung naging reason. Nandun na kami e,” he continued.
“Asymptomatic po ako pero hirap na 14 days ako naka-quarantine tapos yung kasama ko, nag-severe. Dun ako natakot.”
But Cabiltes made sure that his team never gave up.
Then came their return to the MPBL.
It was a triumphant return that saw them sweep their way to the championship.
Basilan though does not see it as a redemption story.
“For me, the win tonight is just God-given. Talagang gusto namin makuha ‘to,” said Cabiltes. “Tulad ng sinasabi ko the last time, nine months ago, we were in this situation, hindi kami napagbigyan then ito pala yung balik na biyaya sa amin.
“We are thankful for the opportunity na binigay sa amin ng Chooks at ng MPBL para makapaglaro kami ulit. Sinabi ko lang sa players ko na let’s not waste this opportunity because it seldom happens. So fortunately for us, nag-deliver naman sila,” the young head coach added.
“Siguro destiny ito, God’s will ito at para sa amin talaga,” continued Manalang.
“Kahit hindi nangyari yung shot na yun, ginagawa ko pa rin yung best ko para mag-improve. Buti nandiyan sila coach kasi ang laki ng minature ko under coach Jerson. Nagpapasalamat talaga ko sa kanila. “