SMART CLARK GIGA CITY--Under fire for an alleged "luto" heckle, it was veteran Reynel Hugnatan's turn to retaliate through his heroics on Wednesday night.
Hugnatan registered a game-high 19 points, none bigger than his go-ahead long jumper with 15.5 seconds left before Raymond Almazan came up with a huge block against Stanley Pringle to power the Bolts' nail-biting 83-80 victory over the Kings that forced a do-or-die semifinal game.
The 42-year-old forward was recently tagged by netizens as the culprit behind the "lutong-luto ref" remark late in Meralco's 91-84 loss in Game 3 last Sunday, obviously implying that the officiating favored Ginebra.
The three-time PBA champion has since denied the accusations, but admitted that it became an added motivation for him heading into the win-or-go home Game 4 for the Bolts.
"Kumbaga parang naging inspiration ko rin 'yun at saka sinubukan ko na lang na maglaro nang maayos," said Hugnatan, who also tallied four rebounds and four assists without a single turnover in 27 minutes of play.
The PBA decided not to pursue the issue due to insufficient evidence.
And the Bacolod City, Negros Occidental native said he already put the incident behind as well and instead focused on the task at hand.
"'Di ko na iniisip 'yun kasi win-or-go home kami," he said. " Kumbaga laro na lang."
The 17-year league veteran said his last shot was not really designed for him, and, of course, not intended to silence the bashers.
It just so happened that he was in the right place at the right time to deliver the dagger basket.
"Usually, 'di talaga sa'kin' 'yung huling play pero kanina nag-scramble na. Nabigay na kay New(some) kaya nag-spread out na kami. Buti nag-help 'yung tao (defender) ko kay New at nakita niya 'ko. Nung pinasa niya sa'kin sabi ko bahala na ititira ko na 'to. Buti pumasok.