JIO Jalalon never expected the ball to swing his way as Star went for the win in the waning moments of its thrilling PBA Commissioner's Cup clash with NLEX, but he was ready just in case.
Tony Mitchell found Jalalon on the right corner after a broken play - and a swarming NLEX defense - forced the Star reinforcement to give up the ball.
Jalalon faked off Garvo Lanete, dribbled once, then pulled up for the buzzer-beating jumper that clinched a 105-103 win for the Hotshots and sent their fans in wild celebration.
"Wala, wala talaga (sa isip ko)," the Gilas cadet and Star rookie said when asked if he expected to be the designated shooter in their final play.
"Si Kuya Paul (Lee) talaga yung go-to-guy namin eh, siya pag last shot. Na-timing-an lang siguro na naipasa sakin. At yun, nakita ko na 'yung oras, tinira ko na lang," he added.
The game-winner capped a special night for Jalalon, who also played a huge part in the fourth period when the Hotshots restored order following a 40-point NLEX explosion in the third.
Jalalon finished with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals while playing a major role in a defense that kept an inspired NLEX side within reach until the final seconds.
"Nag-focus lang talaga ako sa defense, so nakuha ko yung strength ko. Yun lang naman ang best friend namin, yung defense namin, kasi dun kami kumukuha ng lakas," the former Arellano star said.
But despite getting his first-ever game winner in the PBA under his belt, Jalalon still sees room for improvement for a Star team that is off to a 3-0 (win-loss) start.
"Sobrang saya, pero siyempre, meron pa rin kaming mga mistakes - natuto kami dun - sa nag-relax kami," Jalalon said.