IAN Sangalang was one of the sparkplugs for San Mig when the team roared back from 21 points down to come within six of Talk 'N Text in the PBA Commissioner's Cup on Monday night.
No wonder not a few people, including his opponents, wondered why he didn't finish the game for the Mixers.
“Oo nga ano. Hindi ko napansin 'yun,” said an incredulous Talk 'N Text forward KG Canaleta, when asked why the San Miguel rookie wasn't on the floor in the endgame. “Oo nga ano?”
Sangalang finished with 13 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting to go with three boards in the second half against Talk 'N Text, with three of his baskets coming in seven minutes of action in the fourth quarter.
But like fellow back-up Alex Mallari, the No. 2 pick of the last rookie draft headed back to the bench when San Mig coach Tim Cone let regular starters James Yap, Marc Pingris, Mark Barroca, PJ Simon, and import James Mays finish the game for him.
Talk 'N Text weathered the storm to win, 81-75, and remain unbeaten in seven games.
Another Texter, Ranidel De Ocampo, made it clear it was the prerogative of Cone to field who he feels should be there in the endgame for San Mig, but admitted he was relieved not to be facing Sangalang in the final stretch.
“Kasi siya (Sangalang) ang isa sa naghabol. Ako mismo andun na eh. Kahit anong gwardya ko nakaka-shoot pa rin sa harap ko, kahit hinahabol ko na siya,” said De Ocampo.
“Sa mga nanood rin, ganun ang reaskyon. Bakit hindi na binalik? Pero ang tanong: ‘Ano kaya kung andun siya sa loob?’ Siguro iba rin nangyari,” added the Gilas Pilipinas forward.
“Yun talaga ang tanong (sa isip ko). Bakit hindi siya binalik?”
[See video of interview with Canaleta and De Ocampo.]
Pressed for comment after the game, San Mig assistant coach Jeffrey Cariaso had a simple answer, saying Cone simply went back to his starters to finish the game, just like he has always done in the past.
“No particular reason, but I think you have to look at how long he played before that. He was there for like eight minutes, it was time for him to rest. No particular reason for him to come back,” said Cariaso, a longtime protégé of Cone.
“He was really playing well, really happy for Ian. But there’s always a time during the game when you bring back the starters. And I think it’s what happened there. You finish the game for one last push. And ibabalik mo yung starters mo to see if they can do something, catch up or whatever.”
Even Talk 'N Text team owner Manny V. Pangilinan was all praises for the performance of the young Mixer during the game, where he admitted feeling the tension when San Mig made a final stand.
“Syempre, kinabahan ako nung dumidikit na yung San Mig, mahusay ang team na 'yun eh,” said the approachable team owner. “But Ian is a great player, he was wreaking havoc in the fourth and was playing very well.”