With a few minutes left at the half and the San Sebatian Golden Stags up big against the Mapua Cardinals – nine points to be exact – RK Ilagan made an error. Though it was a simple turnover, third-year Golden Stags head coach Egay Macaraya yanked him off the floor.
As the next possession ensued, Macaraya scolded the third-year guard, reducing Ilagan to tears. Yes, on live television.
“Well, it happens all the time, kahit kanino at kahit kung sinong player,” recalled Macaraya, who downplayed that moment. “Any time when you are frustrated, you have to wake him up. Ganun lang naman kasi as a coach, you have to motivate them.
“We have to wake him up dahil kailangan namin siya sa game.”
Maybe it was what it was? Or maybe it was his built-up frustration with Ilagan.
Five games into the NCAA Season 94 Seniors Basketball Tournament, Ilagan was caught by the league playing in a ‘ligang labas’ tournament a few days after the eligibility meeting. It resulted in two of their wins being forfeited and a five-game suspension slapped on Ilagan.
“Imagine, we lost three games in overtime. Those games wala si RK. Plus two games pa [yung na-forfeit], so that’s five games. So this is season is a learning process. RK made a mistake, everybody suffered but we still supported him. Ganun lang naman ka-simple yun e,” Macaraya expressed.
“Still, if we had RK, may pag-asa pa siguro kami na makapasok. Halos six games yung we had a chance to win without him,” added Macaraya, as the Golden Stags have struggled to find wins afterwards.
“But we had to move on.”
When he returned during the second round, Ilagan has made it his mission to make it up to his teammates. Though he had some bright moments, he also had lows.
For his part, Macaraya has seen his efforts to make amends. As time went by, the multi-titled NAASCU champion mentor learned to trust Ilagan again.
“Nakita niyo naman, nung bumalik si RK, dalawang laro siya best player. So sana nakita nila na how important everybody is in this team,” he shared.
Then after the halftime break, Ilagan suddenly lit it up.
The spitfire guard scored 14 points in the second half for a total tally of 26 points – his career-high. It was his way of showing Macaraya and the San Sebastian community that he is sorry for what he did.
“Hindi ako pinabayaan nila coach kahit may nagawa akong mali. Parang tinulungan pa rin nila ako. Sa kanila, lagi nilang sinasabi na bumawi na lang. Ginawa ko naman,” he said after the game.
And no one was more delighted than Macaraya himself.
“I know everybody understands because I’m a father-figure to them.
“Besides, they know that when everybody is happy, I’m happy also pero when they are sad, ako rin malungkot. Ganun lang naman ka-simple yun,” Macaraya closed.