RoS rookie Santi Santillan repays coach Gavina's trust with stellar game vs SMB

Photo from PBA

Rookie Santi Santillan has shown some promise of what he can become in the PBA following his performances in Rain or Shine’s upset wins over Magnolia Pambansang Manok and San Miguel Beer.

The versatile big man proved why against the Beermen when he fired all of his 21 points in the second half that helped complete the Elasto Painters’ 95-93 comeback victory Sunday, Sept. 12 that may have secured them a spot in the quarterfinals of the PBA Philippine Cup.

His effort against the Beermen came after recording 14 points and five rebounds two days earlier against the Hotshots in a 75-72 win that snapped a two-game slide.

In the two games, Santillan flaunted the ability to play the inside game while also hitting shots from rainbow country even as he held his own against two of the league’s top stars in Magnolia’s Calvin Abueva and San Miguel’s Arwind Santos on both ends of the floor.

“Yung dalawang bantay na yun, grabe e,” Santillan said. “Talagang mahirap bantayan din. Kaya gagawin ko talaga na maka-stop lang sa kanila.”

He’s also glad to have earned the trust of his teammates and Rain or Shine coach Chris Gavina, who expects every player regardless if he’s a veteran or a neophyte to deliver each game.

Gavina, who has steered ROS to a 6-4 record with a game left in the eliminations, earlier said that rookies are no longer labeled as such under him.

“Yun yung sabi ni coach, kung maganda yung laro mo last game, kailangan ganun din this game,” said the fifth overall pick in this year’s PBA Rookie Draft.

Rain or Shine was trailing San Miguel 64-57 with over three minutes left when Santillan scored nine in a closing 15-5 run to take a 72-69 lead into the fourth.

That set off a back-and-forth final period with Santillan refusing to cool off on the offensive end during the match that ended on Rey Nambatac’s game-winning shot.