JIO Jalalon's big, fighting heart was on full display on Tuesday night as Magnolia closed out NLEX in Game Six of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal playoff at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jalalon was left with a bloodied mouth and nose and a swollen left eye after being a hard foul by JR Quinahan with 7:27 left in the second period that led to the NLEX's big man's ejection.
But the second-year guard out of Cagayan de Oro picked himself up and bedevilled NLEX the rest of the way, finishing with 11 points, 13 assists, five rebounds and two steals in the close-out 96-89 victory.
“Pagkatapos nung tinamaan ako, nag-focus na lang ako sa game kasi kailangan namin to eh. Mahirap na pag hindi namin nakuha kasi baka ma-pressure pa kami pagdating sa Game Seven,” said Jalalon.
“Tinrabaho talaga namin to. Kahit wala si Kuya Ping (Marc Pingris), nakuha namin yung panalo,” he added.
Jalalon, who averaged 9.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals a game in the series, got some glowing words from veteran Mark Barroca who said he saw his younger self in his teammate.
“Unang una si Jio hindi lang siya sa opensa all-around player e. Proud ako na kasama ko siya sa team namin. Grabe, nakikita ko sa kanya yung dati na pagpasok ko ng PBA,” said Barroca.
“Sobrang aggressive sa depensa, andyan lagi kung saan, kukuha ng rebound, masasaktan, laban pa rin."
Jalalon said he is grateful for veteran teammates like Barroca who is helping him make the transition from a gung-ho, often erratic guard into a more reliable floor general.
“Sobrang nagpapasalamat ako kila Kuya Mark, kasi pagdating sa practice sila yung mga teacher ko e. Tinuturuan nila ako, ang laki ng tulong nila sa akin,” he said.
Now that Jalalon is in his first PBA Finals, he hopes to go all the way and atone for a 2016 loss to San Beda in his only finals appearance with Arellano in the NCAA.
“First time ko mag-finals dito sa PBA, pero meron na akong experience sa college. Ito na yung pagkakataon na sana makuha namin ito.”