After Letran’s 85-80 win over San Sebastian that eliminated the Golden Stags, RK Ilagan received praise from both sides.
“Matagal ko nang kakilala ‘yan eh. Dati pa sa Tondo, naglalaro kami. Manila boys kami niyan eh,” said Letran skipper Jerrick Balanza about the 5-foot-11 dynamo. “Kilala ko ‘yan na gagawin lahat, ibubuhos lahat. Ginawa rin naman namin lahat para pigilan siya, pero wala eh.
“RK is RK.”
“Okay na okay yung samahan namin ni RK, on and off the court. Wala akong masabi kay RK Ilagan,” added senior Golden Stag Allyn Bulanadi.
“Nasa kanya na lahat eh.”
And why not? Ilagan carried San Sebastian on his young shoulders in the biggest of stages.
Down by as much as 14 points in the final frame, the 22-year-old son of Tondo caught fire. He dropped triple after triple to slowly chop Letran’s lead.
A booming triple with 1:40 left, his seventh of the game, then cut the lead to just a solitary point, 80-81.
No one could stop Ilagan in that moment. Well, only his body could.
“Sa akin lang, dapat pinush ko pa, pinilit ko pa. Kaya lang pagod na rin talaga.”
With 35.6 seconds left, Ilagan dove for a loose ball. He was not able to get up since his left foot cramped up.
“Sorry, coach,” he was overheard telling head coach Egay Macaraya.
Still, he returned to the game a few seconds later. However, Letran had already gained a five-point edge and time was not on their side.
“Sobrang sakit kasi ‘yung dalawang beterano ko [Bulanadi and Alvin Capobres], gusto ko silang ibawi na makaabot sana kami sa Finals. Kaya lang we fell short.”
And he is looking to use all the pain he felt today and carry it over to his final year. He said, “Sa akin lang, gagawin ko lang ‘yung best ko [kasi] last season ko na. Mag-eextra time pa, double time, triple time para mag-improve, dalawa kami ni JM Calma.”
Upon seeing how much Ilagan has matured this season, Bulanadi is confident that Ilagan will go supernova come Season 96.
“Siguro, nakikita ko sa kanya next year, sobrang hirap na pigilan ni RK. Siguro, gumawa na ‘yan ng mga times two pa sa score ko. Sixty-plus.”