JAMES Canlas was going for a layup late in the third quarter when all of a sudden, a hand smacked him right in the face.
Perpetual's JBoy Solis slapped him hard and left the Metropac-San Beda guard floored with 22.8 seconds remaining in the frame.
"I didn't expect that, but it happened," he said.
Rather than confront Solis, Canlas did the next best thing: punish the Altas.
That hit, which was ruled as a flagrant foul penalty 1, sparked something inside the 20-year-old as he went on and staged a personal 11-0 run bridging the third and fourth periods, turning a tight 54-53 lead to a commanding 65-53 advantage.
The Movers eventually took the 85-75 victory to gain their first win in the 2019 PBA D-League for a share of the top spot in the Foundation Group.
Unsurprisingly, Canlas was at the forefront of that with him scattering 15 points and four rebounds, on top of an assist and a block.
His performance seemingly ushered in a new era in Mendiola, one where main cogs like Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon are already nowhere in sight.
Make no mistake, though, Canlas is embracing this bigger role with open arms, taking cues from the advice given to him by his seniors.
"They told me whenever I go to the game to just go hard. Don't be afraid. When it's gametime, try to get the win and give it your all. Don't wait for someone to step up and be the leader for the team," he said.
"I'm just taking it game-by-game, slowly but surely. Hopefully next game, I can be better as a leader on and off-the court. I credit my teammates for working harder and hopefully, I'll step up even more."