Nothing’s impossible, says Maliksi

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Nothingâs impossible, says Maliksi
Allein Maliksi
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Meralco survived its first do-or-die test in Game 5 of the PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series against Magnolia in Bacolor last Wednesday and must repeat over the Hotshots in Game 6 today to force a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday. From 1-3 down, Meralco has to win three straight over Magnolia to advance to the finals. In effect, the Hotshots enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage entering Game 6 so it’s a challenge for Meralco to stay alive.

But Meralco forward Allein Maliksi, who erupted for 29 points to lift Meralco to a 102-98 back-against-the-wall win in Game 5, said nothing’s impossible. “Actually, na-experience na namin ang twice-to-beat disadvantage,” he said, referring to Meralco’s situation in upsetting San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals of the Clark bubble last year. “Basta focus lang at take it one game at a time, no pressure. Ang sabi ni coach Norman (Black), give our best effort. Kaya nga ang tawag kay coach Norman ay Mr. 100 percent. Pag sa loob ng court, bigay ang lahat. Bahala na kung anong mangyari. Ang goal namin is to reach the finals, kailangan tiyaga. Excited kaming lahat to make it. Si Mac (Belo), first time nasa semis kaya dagdag motivation to play his best.”

Maliksi, 34, is hitting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc this conference, exactly the same clip he registered in the Clark bubble. He has started six of 18 games and his last came in Game 5, hitting 7-of-8 triples. As a starter, Maliksi is averaging 16.3 points compared to his overall norm of 11.1. He said no matter his role, he’s always ready to contribute. “Tres ang laro ko kaya sa Magnolia series, si Rome (de la Rosa) ang aking katapat,” he noted. “Kung minsan, si Paul (Lee) at Calvin (Abueva) bumabantay sa akin. Sa depensa, nagkakaroon ng cross-switch kaya si Mark (Barroca) nababantayan ko rin maliban kina Paul at Rome. Grabe ang pressure sa akin, lahat ginagawa nila para wala akong open looks, hirap maka-score.”

To overcome Magnolia, Maliksi said it won’t be about outshooting the Hotshots although in Game 5, three Bolts scored at least 20 points. “Dapat idiin namin ang depensa,” he said. “Kung ma-limit ang Magnolia to 85 or less, good chance kaming manalo. Malaking bagay sa amin si Raymond (Almazan) na hindi nakalaro sa Games 3 at 4. Big difference siya sa kaniyang defensive presence at rebounding, pang-tapat kay Ian (Sangalang). Siya at si (Chris) Newsome ang leaders. Si Papa Rey (Hugnatan), very inspiring sa kaniyang dedication at discipline. Araw-araw, 7 ng umaga, nasa gym siya maski na game day. Sobrang taas ng basketball IQ. Si Nards (Pinto), ngayon ready na siya to shoot pag kick-out at mataas ang kumpyansa.”

Safety and health protocols have reduced Meralco’s coaching staff to Black and assistants Ronnie Magsanoc and Charles Tiu. But assistant Luigi Trillo continues to monitor the action, send scouting videos and advise players on viber chats from home. “Kulang-kulang kami pero extra motivation sa amin to fight for them,” he said. “We’ll do it for those who can’t be with us.” Maliksi said he’s learned and matured in his 10th PBA season, having played for coaches Junel Baculi, Rajko Toroman, Siot Tanquingcen, Tim Cone, Leo Isaac, Bong Ramos, Aries Dimaunahan and now, Black. Maliksi didn’t average in twin digit points in his first five years but from 2016-17, he’s turned it around. “Sa umpisa, playing behind veterans kaya limited opportunities tapos nabigyan ako ng break pero later, I was asked to create my own shots at ngayon, coach Norman relies on my outside shooting kaya dapat extra work, dedication at laging handa.”

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