Billy Ray Robles displayed his hops anew, Wednesday night, not with an emphatic slam dunk but the biggest defensive stop of the Davao Occidental-Cocolife’s 77-75 overtime stunner over defending champion San Juan-Go for Gold that gave the Tigers a 1-0 advantage in the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan National Finals.
Up by just a point with 19.3 seconds left in overtime and San Juan-Go for Gold with the possession, Robles reminded everyone of his defensive tenacity a year after the stoppage of the Lakan playoffs due to the pandemic.
Knights star Mike Ayonayon took matters into his own hands, receiving the ball at the top of the key then immediately penetrated to the basket to try to regain the lead.
However, he was met at the top by the Ilonggo Superman for the game-saving rejection as Mark Yee sealed the win with a freebie from the charity stripe.
“Noong last play kasi nila, alam kong magbo-ball screen si Kuya Larry (Rodriguez) tapos mabi-beat si Kuya Mark (Yee) kaya nag-help na talaga ako,” said the 6-foot Robles, who finished with nine points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks.
“Sabi ko ibuhos ko na ang lahat dito kasi last play na eh, kaya yun nagbunga naman.”
But if there is one man not surprised of what Robles did, it is Tigers head coach Don Dulay.
He said the coaching staff always expect Robles to do those game-changing defensive stops.
“We look at him to make big plays defensively… I’m not surprised. He always comes big for us,” said the Davao tactician.
The reason for his confidence in Robles? It is because Dulay has been working with him since 2017 in the Rain or Shine camp in the PBA.
The 40-year-old coach already knows what Robles can bring to the table, the top one being his basketball IQ, just like how he anticipated correctly San Juan’s last play.
“His IQ defensively is one of the best. I was able to coach him in the PBA and that’s one thing I like about him. Not only that he plays hard, he knows his match-up. That’s huge playing against an Ayonayon, John Wilson. You need to have high IQ to play at this level.”
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