REYNEL Hugnatan simply made the most out of the opportunity given him in Game Three of the PBA Governors Cup Finals following the injury that befell fellow veteran Ranidel de Ocampo.
Averaging just 1.0 point in the first two games of the best-of-seven title series, Hugnatan exploded for 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from three-point range as he combined with Allen Durham to lead a 94-81 Meralco win over Ginebra on Wednesday night.
Hugnatan, 38, was forced to play extended minutes by coach Norman Black after De Ocampo went out early in the game owing to a suspected torn left calf muscle.
The pride of Bacolod said he knew someone has to step up with De Ocampo gone.
“Thanks to coach Norman he gave me some playing time. I know Ranidel is out so I have to step up,” said Hugnatan, who played 38 minutes and also had five rebounds and two assists.
“Buti naman I found my shooting (touch).”
Hugnatan, who played a key role as the Bolts made their maiden finals appearance in the same tournament last season, saw his minutes reduced this conference following the arrival of De Ocampo.
And as the one coming off the bench to give Durham a breather, the four-time champion hardly gets the same playing time he had as part of Black’s major rotation last year.
“Reynel has basically been subbing in for AD. So his playing time has been pretty limited not only this series but the series before this,” said Black.
“With Ranidel going out, he (Hugnata) obviously has to step up and fill that position which Ranidel occupies. He’s been doing that for me for the last three years so he’s accustomed to doing that already.”
With one more big guy uncertain for the Bolts for the rest of the series, Black said Hugnatan will definitely have bigger shoes to fill starting Game Four this Friday.
“As you know, we don’t have Kelly Nnbong so it’s really gonna rest on the shoulders of Reynel and Brian Faundo going forward as far as our back-up bigs are concerned,” said the Meralco coach.
“He did a good job of spacing the floor tonight the same way he did last year in the playoffs. So it makes life easier for AD when guys are making outside shots.”
Hugnatan said he hopes to extend his shooting streak in the series in his personal bid to lead the Bolts back in the finals, which they currently trail, 1-2.
“We’ll see it on Friday,” he said.