DIGOS CITY – As co-winner of the Most Valuable Player trophy of this year’s PBA All-Star game isn’t a statement on the part of Arwind Santos for his failure to be included in the roster of Gilas Pilipinas.
The 6-foot-3 forward was at the forefront of the PBA All-Stars tough stand against the national team that saw both sides ending their exhibition match in a 124-124 standoff Sunday night at the Davao del Sur Coliseum.
Santos led the All-Stars with 27 points and 15 rebounds, but end up sharing the MVP trophy with national team mainstay Jeff Chan, who buried the pressure-packed three-pointer with sixth-tenth of a second left that knotted the count.
The Petron veteran had earlier felt surprised that he wasn’t able to make it to the original 17-man Gilas national pool, but nonetheless, extended to the team his best wishes as it prepares for the coming FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship in Manila this August.
“Ang Gilas wala naman tayong ibang hiling kundi mag-tagumpay sila dahil sila ang inaasahan ng bansa,” said Santos. “Iyung line up nila, kung titingnan mo, nandun `yung play nila. Siguro di pa natin kita `yung larong physicality, tapos wala pa si (Marcus) Douthit.”
But Santos didn’t fail to acknowledge the desire of his All-Star teammates to win and give Gilas a good fight during the culmination of the All-Star weekend festivities here.
“Nagpapasalamat din ako sa mga teammates ko. Lahat kami willing maglaro ng seryoso,” he said.
“Di ko expected na ganun ang ilalaro namin, pero from the start pa lang, gusto lahat manalo at maglaro ng seryoso kahit alam nating advantage sila (Gilas) sa height,” he added.
The All-Star squad entered the game handicapped with injuries to key players.
Top All-Star vote-getters James Yap of San Mig Coffee and Mark Caguioa of Barangay Ginebra played for just close to seven minutes as they are still nursing separate injuries.
Big man Jay Washington meanwhile, failed to make the Davao trip after leaving for the US, while sophomore guard Marcio Lassiter also played sparingly due to a bad back.
But Santos teamed up with KG Canaleta, guard Alex Cabagnot and big man Beau Belga and kept the fight for the All-Stars, who at one time even led by as many as 11 points in the final period.
In the end though, Gilas made its way back, which Chan punctuated by converting the game-tying three-pointer.