THE PBA made the loudest noise off the court this year, but the action on the hardwood was equally resounding and newsworthy.
While the biggest story of the year – not just in the league, but Philippine sports – was the board impasse that resulted in the worst crisis the league has seen in its history, the players who led their teams to success – especially during crunch time – have also made headlines.
So as the year came to a close, we feel it’s just right to present the league’s seven best closers who stood out this 2017.
7. Paul Lee
The Magnolia star proved that the Hotshots didn’t make a mistake in trading longtime franchise player James Yap for him in the offseason. The Purefoods franchise has always cashed in on Lee when the chips are down this season, turning to the 'Angas ng Tondo' to make plays down the stretch.
One of Lee’s clutch moments was his three-pointer from way beyond the arc in overtime against Alaska in a Commissioner’s Cup game last May 31.
6. Joe Devance
While the Ginebra offense revolves around its guards and twin towers, it’s actually Devance who’s arguably the Gin Kings most important player.
The 6-foot-7 utility man is not just their defensive anchor, but is also another offensive playmaker who can cause matchup problems with his size and length.
And his playmaking has been evident all-season, including when he scored the putback in regulation of Game Two of the Philippine Cup Finals against San Miguel Beer, as well as in their Governors’ Cup defense.
5. Terrence Romeo
When GlobalPort needs a basket in the final seconds of the game, you know the rock is going to their flamboyant superstar who has usually turned garbage into gold this year.
Romeo highlighted his clutch brilliance by knocking down a contested stepback trey in their playoff over Alaska last June 4 that enabled the Batang Pier to catch the last bus to the playoffs in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Thet prompted then coach Franz Pumaren to say: “Makapal talaga mukha niya,” which is a compliment – and not an insult – to Romeo’s greatness.
4. Jayson Castro
If few can limit him in the continent, the TNT superstar is definitely unstoppable in the country.
'The Blur' has left everyone in the dust with his quickness and speed, but he has also leaned on his outside shooting, especially in the clutch to bail the Texters out this year.
One of his most memorable moments this year was hitting the dagger triple in the Texters’ Game One win in the Commissioner’s Cup semifinals versus Ginebra, setting the tone for the their series upset over the towering Gin Kings and their finals entry.
3. LA Tenorio
The Ginebra is usually the smallest man on the court, but has always stood tallest for always delivering down the stretch for the league’s most popular team.
The 5-foot-8 playmaker has shown consistency and nerves of steel whenever the Gin Kings are dragged into close games.
The league Ironman’s triple that beat Meralco in Game Two of Governors’ Cup Finals last October 15 highlighted his year.
2. Marcio Lassiter
The SMB sniper is probably the least mentioned among the Beermens’ Fab Five, but that seems to be the way he likes it, being a silent assassin for his powerhouse squad whenever they need him to be.
Lassiter made his mark this year by banking in the dagger triple off an offensive rebound in Game Three of the Commissioner’s semifinals that gave the Beermen a 2-1 lead in their series.
1. Alex Cabagnot
The SMB playmaker isn’t called “Crunchman” or “Captain Crunch” for nothing.
Cabagnot has always come through in the clutch – and this year proved nothing different.
The lefty combo guard, who turned 35 this month, played arguably the best basketball of his career this season when he just fell short of winning the Best Player of the Conference award against teammate Chris Ross in the Commissioner’s Cup.
But he saved his best for last in that conference – knocking down the dagger triple that punctuated his triple-double performance in Game Seven of the Commissioner’s Cup Finals against TNT KaTropa on the way to being named Finals MVP.