WHEN Dondon Hontiveros arrived in Alaska before the start of the current PBA season, he knew his role – one he readily accepted – would mainly be as a reliever.
It doesn’t mean he has forgotten how to take the lead, however.
Hontiveros hogged the limelight with one classic performance to lead the Aces to a much-needed win and earn for himself the Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week honors for the period April 1 to 7.
The 35-year-old veritably turned back the hands of time by coming off the bench and notching 22 points, stoking Alaska’s charge from a 22-point third quarter deficit and into an 89-84 win over erstwhile co-leader Rain or Shine last Friday.
Other Alaska players in Robert Dozier, the comebacking Jayvee Casio, Gabby Espinas and Calvin Abueva lent big hands in the victory. But it was Hontiveros catching fire when needed and turning in his best game in an Aces uniform that drew the most raves, especially from coach Luigi Trillo.
“When the going gets tough for us he’s going to be inside because I know his positive attitude will rub off on his teammates,” said Trillo, who has personally known Hontiveros since their days with the Cebu Gems in 1999.
“I’m just trying to help the team in any way I can. Timing lang na maganda ang shooting ko, but it was a total team effort,” said Hontiveros, who anchored his scoring on a 7-for-10 clip from beyond the arc while adding six rebounds against the Elasto Painters.
Trillo also points out the fact it is not just on the offensive end that the “Cebuano Hotshot” contributed against Rain or Shine.
“People keep talking about his 3s in the Rain or Shine game, but he also had key defensive blocks against Jeff Chan and Paul Lee in overtime,” he said. “Had those been converted then it would still have been a game, with us probably winding up on the short end.”
For Trillo, circumstances have prevented Hontiveros from being a starter on his team. But the latter seems to be content with such a role and the other Aces have also accepted him as unofficial co-leader with team skipper Tony de la Cruz.
“He has always been a leader and he always tries to blend in. Our young guys like Calvin, Aldrech (Ramos) and Raffy (Reyes) are lucky to have him guide them. I feel fortunate to have him as one of our more vocal players. He’s my extension out there on the court,” said Trillo.
And then there’s Hontiveros’ game, seemingly back following a prolonged recovery from an assortment of injuries, including a torn ACL the last couple of seasons, that suits Trillo’s system just fine.
“His teammates are looking for him more and that is good for us. He stretches the defense because they must mark him and that opens the interior and driving lanes for our other guys,” said the coach.
That was fully showcased against Rain or Shine.
Coming into the game averaging just 5.6 points, Hontiveros more than doubled that right in the fourth quarter with 12 points built around a 4-for-5 three-point shooting and completing Alaska’s fightback from as much as a 32-54 deficit in the third period.
Hontiveros added two more triples in extra time for an 89-84 lead that ultimately stood up in the final 1:33 with the help of his defensive efforts.
With their ninth win in 12 games, the Aces have a clear shot at nabbing a top two spot at the end of the 14-game eliminations and get rewarded by a twice-to-beat advantage in the ensuing quarterfinals.
Trillo knows Hontiveros’ game and attitude will help prop his team’s bid. “He has such a positive, confident outlook. That’s Dondon for you,” he stated. (NC)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.