Almazan drained a three from the key with one minute left in the contest that proved to be the marginal basket as the Bolts edged the Gin Kings, 106-104, to advance to the semifinals.
The Meralco big man said he is used to taking those shots since his days with Rain or Shine, which is why he took the shot that surprised a lot of fans.
“Tinitira ko sa Rain or Shine ‘yun. Kung papasok, papasok. Sabi ko nga, parang nung tinira ko, parang sabi ko, pa-birthday Mo na lang sa akin ito kasi birthday ko sa Tuesday,” said Almazan, who will be celebrating his 33rd birthday on Aug. 2.
Almazan finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in a tough outing, shooting 5-of-11 from the field. His lone attempt from three turned out to be the series-winner for Meralco.
“Struggle ako nung first to third. Thankful ako kay coach na kahit struggling ako, last six minutes, sinabi niya sa akin na bumawi ka. Lahat naman kami tulungan. I’m happy na natalo namin ‘yung Ginebra,” said Almazan.
Meralco gets past Ginebra in the playoffs this time.
Meralco assistant coach Luigi Trillo was the least surprised with the attempt since Almazan has always been practicing that shot. Trillo had also coached Almazan during their PBA D-League days with Cebuana Lhuillier so he knew what the former Letran center is capable of doing.
“New has faith in Raymond,” said Trillo, referring to Chris Newsome, who dished the pass to Almazan for the open shot. “He builds confidence all around. Some of our guys who don’t do well, he’s always coming up, trying to encourage them. That’s what our Meralco culture is all about. You want to pick a guy up.”
“Raymond was struggling a bit at the start but we practice that shot and Raymond can hit that shot. It took everybody. New played well, Aaron played well, but it needed a three-point shot by Raymond to finally get our monkeys off our back. Super proud kay Raymond… Probably the biggest shot of Raymond’s career,” Trillo said.
“I’m happy that he took it,” Newsome said. “At times, with a game like that, that’s where you find out who you really are. You just have to rely on your preparation and the work that you have done and put into and trust it. Sometimes, it’s going to fall. Sometimes, it’s not. Regardless, you have to trust your work… Special shoutout to Raymond for hitting that shot big time. It’s rock and roll.”
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