PBA Governors' Cup

Time to shine: RK Ilagan seizes Alaska moment with clutch shot

Delfin Dioquino
Time to shine: RK Ilagan seizes Alaska moment with clutch shot

DESERVING. RK Ilagan has finally cracked the Alaska rotation after registering a string of DNPs early in the PBA Governors' Cup.

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Earning the trust of Alaska head coach Jeff Cariaso, RK Ilagan hits the biggest shot of his young PBA career

MANILA, Philippines – It is unusual for a rookie like Alaska guard RK Ilagan to be given the reins in the endgame, but Aces head coach Jeff Cariaso felt he has proven himself worthy of the opportunity.

Ilagan did not disappoint.

The diminutive guard hit the biggest shot of his young PBA career as he drained a jumper at the buzzer to lift Alaska to a thrilling 94-93 win over Meralco in the Governors’ Cup on Saturday, February 26.

Shrugging off a significant height disadvantage, the 5-foot-7 Ilagan crossed up 6-foot-2 Bolts swingman Bong Quinto before he fired the game-winner that capped his career-high 11-point outing.

Despite having a bevy of veterans like Jeron Teng and Mike DiGregorio at his disposal, Cariaso bared he instructed Ilagan to take the last shot.

“I think when you work as hard as RK does, when you put in the work as hard as RK does, he deserves the opportunity,” Cariaso said.

“That’s a shot RK works on in practice everyday so I didn’t have a problem with him taking that shot,” Cariaso added. “Good for him. I’m happy and proud of him.”

Ilagan, a DNP in their first four games, finally cracked the rotation during their 102-97 win over Terrafirma last week, where he put up 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists to help the Aces come back from a 20-point hole.

Awarded with the chance to close out the game against the Bolts, Ilagan rose to the occasion and fired 6 points in the fourth quarter as he breached double digits in scoring for the first time in his PBA career.

“RK comes in and has a tremendous work ethic. What we liked about him is no matter what happens, he comes in ready and he is working,” Cariaso said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“So even if he didn’t play the night before or he is not playing in general, his work ethic is the same. He’s always preparing himself for games like this. It was easy to trust him.”

For Cariaso, Ilagan – picked 31st overall out of San Sebastian – is only showing that he belongs in the big league as he powered Alaska to a 6-3 record, good for fourth place.

“He’s a kid who has a chip on his shoulder. We all know that he wasn’t drafted high so a lot of teams passed up on him. So he’s proving each and every day why he deserves to be in the PBA.” – Rappler.com

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.