By REYNALD MAGALLON
Philip Manalang nailed the buzzer-beating three-pointer in overtime and lifted Basilan Jumbo Plastic Medical Depot to a pulsating 83-80 win over the fancied Nueva Ecija in their winner-take-all Chooks-To-Go MPBL Invitational championship Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
With bare 1.9 ticks left in the extra period, Manalang showed nerves of steel and hit the game winning trey off an inbound pass from Michael Juico.
The shot, which happened to be Manalang’s first basket in the game after missing all of his first eight attempts from the field, came after the Rice Vanguards anticipated the initial play drawn for an alley-oop attempt for Jaymar Gimpayan.
“The initial play was a lob pass for Gimpayan and it was open, we’re shouting to Michael to give the pass to Gimpayan because he was open for a second, and yun nga nag-rotate yung dalawang taga Nueva. Philip got open and ‘yung tira na iyon galing sa Diyos ,” said Basilan head coach Jerson Cabiltes after the game.
Juico finished with 15 points including the free-throw which tied the game at 74-all and sent it to the extra period.
Encho Serrano then went toe-to-toe with MPBL Invitational MVP Michael Mabulac during the overtime as the two exchanged baskets down the stretch to set up the dramatic finish.
Serrano unloaded six of his 15 points in the overtime while Jay Collado also added 15 markers and seven assists as Basilan went undefeated with seven straight wins throughout the 13-day tournament.
Manalang finished with just three points and six assists on 1-of-9 shooting from the field but made the biggest play in the tournament to bag the Finals MVP citation.
It was a redemption of some sort for Manalang who revealed that he was one of the four players who got contracted COVID-19 from Basilan which resulted to forfeiture of their Southern Division finals against Davao Occidental Tigers in the MPBL Lakan Cup.
“’Yung sa bubble na iyon ako yung nagpositive sa COVID nun e, ako tsaka si Bringas. Umiiyak ako kay coach Jerson, parang nahihiya ako sa team na parang ako pa yung reason na kasi nandun na kami pa-Finals na rin yun,” said Manalang during the post-game presser.
“Ito God’s will ‘tong nangyari na ito,” he added.
Mabulac carried the load for Nueva Ecija with 24 points and 11 rebounds which went down the drain after Manalang’s triple.