ANTIPOLO CITY — RK Ilagan couldn’t hide the pain of missing two free throws late in Converge’s heartbreaking 86-83 loss to TNT in their PBA Philippine Cup match held Sunday, June 12 at the Ynares Center here.
Ilagan, who earlier knocked down a jumper that put the FiberXers ahead 83-82, had a chance to extend the lead to three with nine seconds to go but couldn’t convert both foul shots.
The two misses allowed TNT to pull off an escape act, with the veteran Jayson Castro scoring a runner off Ilagan with 2.6 seconds to go.
“Di ko ma-explain yung nararamdaman ko ngayon kasi sobrang down lang,” said a somber Ilagan, his head covered with a white towel as he emerged from the Converge dugout.
Two days ago, Ilagan looked like he was on cloud nine when his three-pointer sent the game against Magnolia Chicken Timplados into overtime, with Converge eventually prevailing, 89-82.
It seemed that the sophomore guard was poised to end up being the hero once more until the stunning turn of events transpired.
“He’s really feeling bad about the free throws,” said FiberXers coach Jeffrey Cariaso, insisting that there were other factors as to why the result didn’t go in their favor.
“I told him, like how we assess every game — there are plays throughout the whole game where we could have been better, that could have been a difference-maker.
“So us losing by three could have happened also because of what happened in the first quarter, second quarter. So not to look at it that way. He's a strong kid, I know he's gonna bounce back from this. He's just feeling really bad right now,” he said.
Castro was also seen consoling Ilagan, saying that it should not only serve as a lesson but also as motivation.
“Sabi ko sa kanya, okay lang yan, part of the process, para next time na mag-free throw ka, yun ang magiging inspiration mo,” Castro said. “At saka, wag na wag kang mawawalan ng kumpiyansa, kasi ang ganda ng kumpiyansa ng bata. At the same time, ang ganda ng mga clutch shots niya.
“So dun siya maggo-grow, yung mga mistake na ganun. Pero, for me, di naman mistake yun eh. Learning process yun. Siyempre as a veteran, nagawa ko rin yung mga mistake na ganun before, and dun ako natuto.”
As much as he feels disappointed — probably shedding a tear or two — Ilagan promised to do better next time if the situation arises anew.
“Kailangan masuklian ko pa ng kung ano dapat yung gawin,” said Ilagan. “Kailangan mas higitan ko pa kasi yun nga, panget yung resulta ng nangyari ngayon.”