FOR a brief moment, the energy and the noise of the crowd inside the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex brought Paul Zamar back to the time when he was still playing for the University of the East.
With thousands hoping for him to come up empty from the stripe to keep Alab Pilipinas in the game, Zamar calmly sank both charities to give Mono Vampire a comfortable lead down the stretch in Game Two of the Asean Basketball League Finals.
Those foul shots turned out to be the insurance points that Mono needed to hold off Alab, 103-100, and tie the best-of-five title series at one apiece.
"It feels really great. It felt like playing in the UAAP again with that kind of crowd," said Zamar who had two UAAP finals appearances with the Red Warriors.
Personally, Zamar shared that he waited for moments like this to get some personal redemption after missing crucial free throws in the finals of the Thailand Basketball League when he was still playing for Mono Thew last year.
"Coach, Jason (Brickman), Mike (Singletary) everybody trusts me in those kind of moments. They don't know it but it’s one of the moments that I relish - those kinds of situations - because I've failed in those kinds of situations before, and I wanted to redeem myself in pressure moments," he said.
Zamar struggled the whole game but he hit the shots that mattered most.
Aside from those two pressure-packed foul shots, Zamar also played the role of fire extinguisher in a stretch in the third quarter when it looked like momentum was slowly shifting towards the home team.
Facing an Alab rally led by the red hot-shooting of Josh Urbiztondo, the 5-foot-11 guard scored five straight to put the visitors back in the driver's seat after trailing by one momentarily.
His baskets momentarily hushed what was a rocking venue already, although being a Filipino himself, Zamar knew that it was only a matter of time before the crowd got involved again.
"Well I've been struggling the whole game, and I just wanted to hit one. I'm so focused and locked in in making that shot," Zamar explained.
"I'm glad it went in and started a turn of momentum for us and somehow silenced the crowd. But you can never silence the Filipino crowd (for long)," he added.
The son of the San Miguel assistant Boycie Zamar felt mixed emotions, especially since he had to break the hearts of his countrymen.
But he understands that he has a job to do and he has to put all emotions aside for this one.
"It's mixed emotions, you know, playing against your fellow countrymen. But of course, I still have a job to do. It's basketball -- you throw away all those emotions. It's a great feeling to finally win a game against the Philippines."