MANILA, Philippines—Not even one of his six PBA championships would amount to what he had just been part of late Saturday night.
And of the countless of big shots he took, his latest one—considering what’s at stake—is unlike the rest.
“Probably the most precious moment of my career,” said the proud Philippine team captain Jimmy Alapag, moments after Gilas Pilipinas’ emotional 86-79 win over a familiar foe in Korea. “This is more than the PBA championship. This is so much deeper. This is for our country.”
“Not only do we love the game so much and are so passionate of the game of basketball but just thinking of the heartbreak that we had and the history against Korea to change all that in one night here at home in front of an unbelievable crowd it’s absolutely special,” the 35-year-old Alapag, who is most likely on his final moments laying it all for the flag, added.
Alapag delivered 14 points, six came in the final three minutes, including a triple that extended Gilas’ cushion to five, 84-79, with exactly 54.0 ticks remaining prompting a defeaning roar from the hometown crowd, which had been serving as Gilas’ sixth man throughout the tournament.
“They’ve been just a key for us from the beginning. When they’re screaming so loud, it’s hard to get tired out there and it’s a credit to our coaches and our guys who continued to fight. It really took every ounce of heart and soul to pull through tonight against a great Korean team,” Alapag acknowledged.
And on his dagger of a trey, Alapag, the team player that he is, deflected the credit to his teammate.
“Ranidel (de Ocampo) sets some great screens, and then I was able to get free. Again Korea’s defense is so tough. I was so fortunate to have that opening. I know that was really my opportunity to get a great look at the basket and the rest is history.”
The Nationals took a 10-point lead late in the third quarter before Korea, behind its hot-shooting guard Kim Mingoo, came back and even grabbed a 77-76 edge down the stretch.
“During the moments of the game, we weren’t thinking about that,” said Alapag on whether the demons of the past have come to haunt all over again as the game went down-the-wire. “I told the guys something that Kelly Williams told me before the start of the tournament, he said no fear all heart.”
“I know he is not here with us, he is in the states but he is still with this team, so I just reminded the guys that’s what it’s gonna take coming out on the court tonight and really having no fear and having all heart and that’s what pulled us through,” he said.
“It’s great. I’m just proud with everybody involved tonight. All the hard work of the coaches to the players and even the crowd. All the fans spending their hard earned money to come and support us and the fact that we come here and make our countrymen proud, it doesn’t really get any better,” Alapag said.