INSTINCT, more than anything else, led Rabeh Al-Hussaini to veer away from the final play NLEX designed in its PBA Commissioner’s Cup game against Star on Friday night.
Too bad he couldn't hit the game-winner for a Road Warriors team that fought back from as much as a 21-point deficit to give the Hotshots fits until the final buzzer.
“Yung play talaga was for Wayne (Chism). Decoy ako, back down and kick,” he said of the play designed by coach Yeng Guiao in the final 30 seconds of the game and the score tied at 103-all.
“E, medyo nag-sag yung import (Tony Mitchell), so ang talagang parang instinct ko was to go up and make the shot.”
Star got the rebound, and with no timeout left had to scramble to come up with a game-winning play, which Mitchell made possible by dishing off to rookie Jio Jalalon at the right side for the basket at the buzzer, 105-103.
Al-Hussaini, acquired in a three-team trade involving Meralco and Blackwater, had six points (3-of-6 from the floor) and two rebounds in 24 minutes of action in his first outing in an NLEX uniform.
For a moment, he appeared ready to emerge the hero for a long-suffering Road Warriors team.
“Hindi nga lang pumasok, kaya sayang,” said the 28-year-old former UAAP MVP from Ateneo, who was actually surprised he played the entire fourth quarter. “But then if I made it, then ang saya nun.”
He may have missed the opportunity to give NLEX its first win in the mid-season tournament, but Al-Hussaini is thankful Guiao still trusts him - seven years since making him the No. 2 overall selection in the 2010 rookie draft.
"For me, two games pa lang akong nagpa-practice and I've played half the game, so may tiwala sa akin yung coach ko," he explained.
"And I have to replicate that trust and work din. Kung may tiwala siya sa akin, both ways lang."
Despite the loss, the fourth in as many games for NLEX, a silver lining looms for the Road Warriors, according to Al-Hussaini.
“Ito yung binigay sa atin. Trabaho na lang ulit. Back to the drawing boards,” he stressed. “Positive talaga dapat hindi ka puwedeng bumaba.”
NLEX won’t be playing again until next Friday against sister team TnT Katropa.