AFTER breaking out last year, Justin Gutang is now a marked man for Go for Gold-CSB.
But it hasn't been the best of rides for the Fil-Am forward, with defenses now paying extra attention on him in the ongoing 2019 PBA D-League.
Still, Gutang finds a way to deliver, leading the Scratchers in scoring with 20 points per game.
Those efforts finally paid off on Thursday when Gutang collected 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals in towing Go for Gold-CSB to a 78-69 win over Family Mart-Enderun to notch its first victory in three outings.
Rather than hog the spotlight, the 22-year-old defrayed the credit and lauded the team's collective performance.
"It was good, it was a good team effort win," he said. "We still have some things to work on. All the guys played great, the point guards stepped up, we stepped up on rebounding, and we showed our effort."
Unique Naboa finally had a respectable showing with 12 points and nine assists, Kendrix Belgica added 14 points and six boards, and Fil-Am sniper Roosevelt Adams went 3-of-9 from deep to collect 11 points and 12 rebounds.
As much as the breakthrough win lifted the Scratchers' spirits, Gutang knows that it's just a win and it will take more than that to help the Foundation Cup champions ascend to the top four of the Aspirants Group.
"We're high now, but we can’t be too full of ourselves," he said. "You know, one win isn’t gonna make us keep on winning. It's good momentum for us, but we have to have that mindset that we're always hungry and we can’t take any games for granted."
And for Gutang, he wants the players to use this PBA D-League experience in preparation for the upcoming NCAA Season 95 wars later this year.
"It can help us bring maturity to the team. I think right now, some of us are scared because they're not used to playing in this level, but it will definitely be a good experience for the guys, especially on the bench," he said. Rusty Magsakay