FORMER PBA star Rey Evangelista flashed that familiar, friendly grin while the Star Hotshots celebrated at the final buzzer after a 91-89 win over Barangay Ginebra in Game Two of the Philippine Cup semifinals on Saturday.
Actually, the smile was more of a sigh of relief.
“Baka mamaya sabihin ako pa nagdala ng malas,” the former Purefoods defensive linchpin shared as he spoke to SPIN.ph following the game at the Mall of Asia Arena that gave the Hotshots a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Rare are the times that Evangelista get to watch his former team play with the stakes so high. Now based in his home city of Ormoc, the 45-year-old is currently in Manila for some business transactions involving the chain of The Generics Pharmacy outlets he has down South.
Going back home by Sunday, he lost no time to watch – along with his father – in person the only franchise he played for in his entire PBA career.
“Pag may biyahe dito at may time, talagang sumusuporta ako sa Star, yung team ko dati,” said the soft-spoken forward.
He lauded both the Kings and Hotshots for playing a thrilling game that wasn’t decided until the final seven seconds when Rafi Reavis hit two free throws for a 91-87 lead.
But his kind words were reserved for the Hotshots, who, he said, displayed far better teamwork and finer shuffling of players.
The five-time All-Star and three-time All-Defensive team member in particular was impressed with freshman Jio Jalalon and gunner Allein Maliksi.
“He was playing at crunch time kahit na rookie. Hindi kabado. Kahit rookie, kahit crunch time, nag-deliver,” he said, noting the rookie guard’s floater down the stretch that broke the game’s final deadlock and gave Star an 87-85 lead.
Jalalon finished with nine points, five assists, and three rebounds.
Evangelista added Star’s rising players are perfect complementing the team’s veterans such as Mark Pingris and Reavis.
Of course, an eye catcher for him at Barangay Ginebra is sophomore guard Scottie Thompson.
“Offense and defense, kumpleto,” he said of the former University of Perpetual Help standout, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, including a perfect 7 of 7 shooting from the field.
“Pati sa rebound, he has the nose for the ball kahit na point guard siya.”
As for the next Rey Evangelista at Star, the left-handed, 6-foot-4 Evangelista said there are a lot of them in the team, but would rather not mention any names.
“Meron naman. Role player tayo dati, at sa isang team hindi nawawala ang mga role players,” he said.
But truth to tell, there will only be one Rey Evangelista.