MANILA, Philippines – Jared Dillinger made a surprise return from injury and stepped up in crucial stretches to help the Meralco Bolts stay alive against Phoenix Fuel Masters in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday, November 7.
The veteran guard was subbed at the start of the second half after Cliff Hodge hurt his back. The Bolts captain did not return to the game.
"As soon as Cliff hit the deck, I knew that coach was going to throw me in in the fire. [The] original plan was just to be with the team and kind of get ready for the semis if we make the semis," said Dillinger, who initially, wasn't set to play the entire conference due to a quad injury sustained during the 2018 Commissioner's Cup.
The Filipino-American nailed a key layup that tied the score at 38-all in the 10:46 mark of the 3rd quarter before the Bolts erupted for a massive 17-2 run on the way to a huge 90-74 win that forced a do-or-die Game 2 quarterfinal match against Phoenix.
Dillinger admitted that the pain still lingers, but he's ready to give it his all when he's called up from the bench.
"I tried to go for a layup, but I’m pretty sure that I jumped two inches off the ground, so my legs aren’t there yet, but my heart is there, my fighting spirit is there," said Dillinger.
"We got guys like Cliff breaking his back out there, so I should break my legs if he’s going to break his back. We’ll do everything we can to get the win."
Despite only chipping in 2 points, Meralco head coach Norman Black commended Dillinger for defending Calvin Abueva in his 7 minutes of play.
"Calvin Abueva is a real problem as far as how you can defend him, and there are only certain types of players who can defend him because he’s so physical," explained Black.
"That's why I used JD (Dillinger) tonight. He’s a pretty physical player defensively."
But Dillinger thought that Black was just being nice with his praises as he admitted that he still fumbled with his defense and quickly fell into foul trouble.
"It was funny like before the game, I was telling all the guys if I’m going to get in there, I’m just going to foul. Obviously, I didn’t think that I was going to foul that much but you know again, the guys just responded well. Cliff went down, and everyone came together and obviously AD (Allen Durham) took over and we got the win," shared Dillinger.
Black was impressed with Dillinger's comeback that he will make sure that the veteran guard will get to play more minutes on Friday.
"I didn't want to force him in this situation [a while ago] 'cause he hasn't played the whole conference. But he showed me that he can get out there and give me a few minutes, so definitely he'll show up on Friday," added Black. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.