JIREH Ibañes didn’t need to hear one word from Yeng Guiao to know what the Rain or Shine coach expected of him when he was inserted in the second half of Game Two of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals against Talk ‘N Text on Friday night.
The former Defensive Player of the Year was well aware of what he’s supposed to do – put the clamps on Jayson Castro after the spitfire guard erupted for 27 points in the first half for the Tropang Texters.
Ibanes did just that as he slowed down Castro, who was held to 17 in the second half to aid Rain or Shine’s comeback from a huge double-digit deficit on the way to a 116-108 win that tied the best-of-seven Finals at one-game apiece.
“Hindi naman sinabi ni coach (na tauhin ko si Castro),” Ibañes told Spin.ph. “Pagkapasok na lang namin, ang kasama ko si Paul (Lee) tsaka si Chris (Tiu), so ako na ‘yun.”
“Gusto mo si Paul na fresh siya at si Chris na okay yung legs niya, so ako na ‘yun (dedepensa sa kanya),” he added. “I’m just thankful na nag-click yung defensive game plan namin.”
The unheralded former University of the Philippine stalwart went into the game averaging just 11.5 minutes of play. He suited up for just eight minutes and scored four points in the series opener last Wednesday.
But he surpassed his playing time in the second half alone, when he logged 12 minutes of play for a total of 20 and score 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, on top of tallying five boards, one steal, and one block.
Ibañes, who turns 33 on Monday, did admit he had a hard time chasing Castro all over the court.
“Sobrang bilis, sobrang galing,” he said. “Sabi ko kanina, basta maka-stay in front lang ako sa kanya, mahalaga na ‘yun and it just so happened na we were able to do it, so thankful ako ‘dun.”
It was enough to take the steam out of Castro, adjudged one of two best Asian guards during the 2013 Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship here.
“Oo (medyo nahirapan ako),” Castro admitted. “Alam naman natin si Ji’ (Ibanes) defensive player siya. Physical lang, pero wala namang dirty or ano. He’s doing his job lang naman.”
Guiao later paid tribute to his scrappy guard.
“At halftime, we just needed to weather the storm and stay in the game, stick with the game plan, stay together, play tough, and work hard. And that’s exactly what they did,” Guiao said.
“Special mention to Jireh Ibanes, who did a hell of a job not just defending Jayson Castro, but also scoring some big points for us.”