By Ernest Hernandez
The strain of the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals has started to tell on the players. The latest casualty is Ranidel de Ocampo of the Meralco Bolts who was pulled out with less than two minutes in the opening quarter. It turns out that RDO suffered a calf injury and has been ruled out for the rest of the series.
In RDO’s absence, Reynel Hugnatan called upon to fill in. The veteran responded with 22 points, highlighted by 7 three-point bombs and 5 rebounds. The effort allowed the Bolts to pull away and register their first win of the PBA Finals.
Meralco coaches and teammates were hardly surprised by Hugnatan’s performance.
“He has done that for me for the last three years, so he is accustomed to doing it already,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black.
“As you know, we don’t have Kelly Nabong so it will rest on the shoulders of Reynel and Bryan Faundo going forward as far as bigs are concerned.”
With “Fafa Rey’s” hot shooting distracting the Ginebra defense, import Allen Durham operated in the paint and became more dominant. He finished with 38 points, 20 rebounds and 5 blocks.
“Fafa Rey is a professional. He knows he got to be ready to step up when his number is called,” said Durham. “Last year, we were playing really good and he was knocking down shots to make the finals last year. Hopefully, he can bring more magic in Game 4.”
With Black having limited options to battle the tall frontcourt of Ginebra, Hugnatan will now be a marked man.
“Reynel has been subbing in for ‘AD’, so his playing time is pretty limited. Not just in this series but the series before this,” said Black.“But with Ranidel out, obviously, he needs to step up and take that position that Ranidel occupies.”
“He did a great job spacing the floor, very similar to last year in the playoffs. It just makes life a lot easier for ‘AD’ when guys can make outside shots.”
The 38-year-old Hugnatan is at the penultimate stage of his career but believes he has still a lot left in his tank.
“I know Ranidel is out so I just stepped up. Buti naman nandun yung shooting,” said Hugnatan after Game 3. “We will see this Friday.”