ALCANTARA, CEBU — KCS Computer Specialist-Mandaue had leaned on its veterans like Gryann Mendoza, Ping Exciminiano, and Al Francis Tamsi during its run to the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup-Visayas Finals.
But when the lights were at their brightest, KCS found an unlikely hero in young gun Shaq Imperial.
Despite having a team full of vets, it was the 25-year-old product of Southwestern University PHINMA who had the guts to shoot in the clutch.
Down by two with a minute left, Imperial literally took the ball in his hands, saying that he had been working on that moment with his vets.
“Nag-eextra session kami palagi after practice. Siguro, dun ko nakuha yung tiwala sa sarili ko at yung tiwala nila,” said Imperial, who is just playing in his maiden season as a pro.
His first attempt from downtown missed but he was able to get the board. Luckily for the 6-foot guard, he was able to grab the miss but his leaner again clunked off the rim.
San Beda product Michole Solera was at the right place and at the right time, hauling down the board and passing it off to Imperial who was spotting up from the top of the arc. With no hesitation, Imperial threw a triple that found nothing but net.
“Andami kong inattempt,” quipped the CESAFI Season 19 Most Valuable Player, who had a game-high 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the field.
“Gamble talaga kasi naka-dalawang attempt ako bago ko nakuha yung last shot.”
It proved to be the dagger blow as MJAS-Talisay was not able to get a clean look on the other end. KCS-Mandaue’s 67-66 win was the first loss experienced by MJAS-Talisay — a team that had beaten them by an average of 14.0 points per game during the elimination round.
“Sobrang saya na natalo na rin namin yung top team,” expressed the soft-spoken Imperial.
Sweet as the victory was, Imperial knows that the championship is still far away. That is why he is not celebrating this triumph just yet as Game Two takes place in less than 24 hours.
“Hindi pa tapos yung laban kaya sinet aside namin yung celebration. Focus lang kami para sa Game Two. Wala kaming adjustments na gagawin, just communication,” he said as MJAS-Talisay can punch its ticket to the Grand Finals set on August with a win on Saturday.
“Trust each other and trust the system of Coach Mike [Reyes].”