Joseph Gabayni not only answers Racal coach's challenge - but does much more
Joseph Gabayni proved to be the game changer for Racal after a near double-double performance to help force a do-or-die match for the Aspirants' Cup title. Dante Peralta

JOSEPH Gabayni was a surprise starter for Racal in Game Two and proved to be the X-factor in the Tile Masters' 100-90 win over Cignal in the PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup finals on Monday. 

Making the most of his extended minutes, Gabayni came a point shy of a double-double outing with nine points and 10 rebounds to go with an assist and a block in almost 25 minutes of action. 

Gabayni bared that coach Jerry Codinera asked him to score at least eight points and grab the same number of rebounds. But the incoming Arellano reserve center, a transferee d from Lyceum, did more than what was asked from him. 

"Actually, before [Game Two], nag-usap kami ni Coach Jerry about nga sa nilalaro ko this championship. Sabi niya sa 'kin, 'Ok lang umiskor ka ng eight points, rumebound ka ng eight rebounds kasi yun lang magagawa mo,'" said Gabayni. 

"Sabi ko, 'Coach, kaya ko umiskor ng 10 points, 10 rebounds.' Ngayon, one point short ako eh. Ginawa ko naman yun para makatulong sa team namin," he added.

"Wala akong pakialam kung 'di ako maka-score. Yung score sa 'kin, bonus na lang eh. Ang importante sa 'kin is yung rebounds. Yung 10 rebounds na natulong ko para sa team namin, yun."

No one was happier than Codinera after the 22-year-old Gabayni's performance on Monday.

"Marami kaming athletic big man, but I'd like to point out si Gabayni. After so many games, nahabaan ko playing time niya and he responded well so laking bagay sakin yun," said Codinera. 

Gabayni is expected to make his presence felt anew when the Tile Masters and the Hawkeyes face in the winner-take-all Game Three on Thursday.  

Gametime is set at 4 p.m. at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

"Andito na kami. Nothing to lose. Eenjoyin na lang namin. Kung makuha namin yung championship, thank you kay God. Sana makuha namin. Siyempre tulong-tulong kami as a team. 'Di naman makukuha ng isang tao lang yan eh, lahat dapat gagawa," he said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros