IF there’s someone who deserves a medal of valor for Barangay Ginebra, big man Joe Devance should be the hands-down choice.
Devance once again shrugged off the pain from a torn plantar fasciitis to lead the Kings to a 91-67 win over the Star Hotshots that kept their hopes alive in the PBA Philippine semifinals on Sunday night before a huge, roaring crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-7 Fil-Am took two shots of pain killers to his injured foot just before Game Six that enabled him to play his best game so far in the best-of-seven series currently tied at 3-3.
Devance shot 6-of-8 from the floor including two from three-point range, scoring all of his 14 points in a pivotal third quarter run which the Kings used as a springboard to finally controlling a game that was a nip-and-tuck affair until that point.
He added three rebounds and an assist in 19 minutes of play on a night he celebrated his 35th birthday.
Although the pain is constant on his injured foot, Devance doesn’t mind playing on if it meant earning another finals berth and winning the coveted all-Filipino championship.
“If it takes me 100 shots to make it and win the championship, to get to the finals, I’ll take 100 shots and worry about my foot later,” said Devance afterwards.
These guys play with so much heart throughout this whole conference, and we’ve battle through a lot of stuff,” he stressed. “Just to get here is not good enough. We got one more game to get to the finals and hope we get that one.”
Devance had his first shot of injection two hours before the game, but felt he needed another one after sensing everything is not good shortly after he warmed up.
“So I told the doctor I still need one more shot because I can still feel the pain. So he came in right before the game, and just did it very quick,” said Devance.
And just how throbbing the injured foot was? Devance described it like his whole foot is numb.
“I felt like I have no foot,” he admitted.
But with Ginebra’s campaign on the line, and the team trailing 39-38, at the half, the veteran forward knew he had to set aside everything first, pain or no pain, injured or not.
“My foot hurt a little bit inside, but I just told myself in the second half that I have to battle through that pain,” he said.
That’s what exactly Devance did to keep the Kings’ title hopes going.
Now everything goes down to a Game Seven and Joe vows to be there for his team.
“What can I do? I can either sit down and say my foot hurts, or just try to get do it,” said Devance.” So I just try to get do it.”