While much of the spotlight centered on veterans James Yap and Paul Lee and their keenly-awaited first game against their former teams, prized rookies still found a way to shine on Sunday.
Jio Jalalon had an all-around game with 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds for Star while his counterpart Mike Tolomia wasn’t far behind, finishing with 11 markers, four boards, and four dimes in the Hotshots’ 99-91 win over the Elasto Painters.
“Pagdating ko talaga sa Araneta, di ko na iniisip yung kay kuya Paul (Lee) at kuya James (Yap). Nag-focus ako sa sarili ko, kung paano ako makakatulong sa team (I didn’t want to think about Paul Lee and James Yap. I just focused on how I’m going to help the team),” Jalalon said.
“Sinasabi sa akin ni kuya PJ (Simon) na kahit magkakakilala, laro lang kami. Kahit magkaibigan, walang personalan. Gawin mo lang kung ano yung dapat mong gawin. Nagawa ko naman sa laro (PJ has been telling me to just play our game and do whatever he have to do).”
Tolomia also shared his older teammates gave him the same advice as he helped the Elasto Painters establish a 10-point lead in the third quarter.
“Una naman talaga, gusto ko talaga makatulong sa team na manalo, lalo na ngayon para kay kuya James. Gusto ko lang makatulong ako sa kanya para manalo yung team (I just really wanted to win especially now for James. I want to help him and the win) ,” he said.
“Sabi nya, tuloy ko lang yung ginagawa ko. Pag may mali ako, kino-correct nya rin naman ako (He just told me to keep doing what I do best).”
It also pitted both Gilas guards to face each other in the pro league, an experience the two truly cherished.
“Nage-enjoy lang kaming dalawa. Nagkukwentuhan nga kami habang nagdedepensahan eh (We really enjoyed playing against each other. We’re even chatting while we’re defending one another),” shared Jalalon.
“Sa Gilas pa lang, talagang nagkakaroon na kami ng healthy competition talaga kasi sa practice pa lang, kami lagi ang magkabantayan. So halos parang sanay na kami na kami ang nagbabantayan pagdating sa game (Even when we’re still practicing with Gilas we’re already have a healthy competition because we’re matched up against each other so we’re used to guarding each other),” Tolomia said.
With Star coming away with the win, all Jalalon wants now is to keep the momentum going as he hopes to contribute further to the Hotshots’ success.
“Tingin ko nakukuha na namin yung laro namin (We’re starting to find our game),” said Jalalon. “Sa practice namin dinadaan, so nakukuha na namin yung chemistry at desire namin, yung takbo talaga ng team namin. Kita naman na sa buong team, talagang sharing the ball kami (We’re starting to build chemistry and learn how to run the team. You can see that we’re sharing the ball).”
Tolomia, meanwhile, charged the Painters’ second loss to experience.
“Siguro gagamitin namin itong game na ito para dito kami matuto. Mas mabuti nang nangyayari itong mga ganitong games ngayon kaysa sa playoffs pa mangyari, kung makapasok kami (We’re going to use this game to learn and be better. It’s also better that we get to experience these things rather than in the playoffs if ever we make it).”