ANTIPOLO, Philippines – There is something about RK Ilagan when playing at the Ynares Center.
Ilagan turned in another clutch performance at the decades-old arena as he towed Converge to its first PBA win in franchise history following an 89-82 overtime victory over Magnolia in the Philippine Cup on Friday, June 10.
Fielded in late by Jeff Cariaso after riding the bench for almost half of the fourth quarter, Ilagan drained a long three-pointer with 3.6 tick left that tied the game at 82-82 and eventually forged an extra period.
Not yet done with his heroics, the Tondo native then opened overtime with a corner triple and fished two offensive fouls from Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang that allowed the FiberXers to pull away for good.
The sophomore guard matched his PBA career-high with 14 points on top of 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
“I’m thankful because coach Jeff took a gamble on me,” Ilagan said in Filipino. “He gave me his trust so I needed to repay it.”
The heart-stopping buckets brought back memories of Ilagan sinking his first PBA game-winner, which he also made at the Ynares Center last February 26 during the Governors’ Cup.
In one of its last couple of games before bidding the PBA goodbye, Alaska trailed Meralco in the dying seconds before Ilagan buried a pull-up jumper at the buzzer that catapulted the Aces to a 94-93 win.
“I think it is just coincidence. I just thought of my shot against Meralco to boost my confidence,” Ilagan said.
For Cariaso, giving Ilagan the last shot in regulation proved to be an easy decision, knowing that he can rely on the 5-foot-7 guard to deliver when the game is on the line.
“RK is clutch. He has a big heart. He prepares well. He is a wonderful teammate and you cannot ask anything more from him,” said Cariaso.
With the first win in the books, Converge sets its sights on starting a winning streak as it tangles with defending champion TNT on Sunday, June 12, at the same venue. – Rappler.com