MANILA, Philippines – Rey Nambatac proved crucial for Rain or Shine anew by hitting the go-ahead bucket in an 85-83 victory over Blackwater that catapulted them to the semifinals of the PBA Commissioner's Cup on Thursday, July 25.
He scored 12 of his 21 points in the final frame, highlighting his performance with a midrange jumper at the 18-second mark left that broke an 83-83 tie and denied Blackwater its first semifinals appearance in franchise history.
It was not the first time Nambatac bailed out Rain or Shine in the best-of-three quarterfinals affair after he sank the game-winning three-pointer in their 83-80 Game 1 win 5 days ago.
But the sophomore guard did not just become clutch overnight, learning it the hard way from head coach Caloy Garcia, who did not hesitate to call him out whenever he fails to deliver in crucial situations.
"I've already learned from when coach Caloy shouts at me during practices and games. For me, I don't want to be always shouted at and scolded," Nambatac said in Filipino.
"I think to myself that there's something wrong with what I do and I correct them step-by-step so when I step on the court and play in those clutch moments, I'm already mature. I'm not the player I was before."
"I admit that I got nervous and afraid because this already the pro league. But for me, in order for you to be successful, you have to take the challenge because those kinds of chances will give you confidence for the next games."
Nambatac did not shy away from the moment as he answered everything Blackwater threw at Rain or Shine down the stretch.
When Rain or Shine trailed 65-73, he scored 8 points in a 14-0 run that gave their side a six-point advantage.
And when Mac Belo buried back-to-back triples that knotted the score for Blackwater at 83, Nambatac retaliated with the biggest shot for a Rain or Shine team saddled with injuries to James Yap, Ed Daquioag, and Maverick Ahanmisi.
Garcia had nothing but praises for Nambatac.
"I'm sort of speechless. Nambatac carried us in this game. Rey's maturity is showing."
After a grueling series, Rain or Shine is not given much reprieve as it faces San Miguel in a best-of-five semifinals duel, but Nambatac has faith in his team.
"We are the underdogs. It will be David and Goliath. But not because we're the underdogs that we're going to give up easily. Anything can happen when we're helping each other."
Game 1 is slated on Saturday, July 27, at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com
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.