"BIG time players make big time shots."
That's the only thing active consultant Lawrence Chongson could offer to Rey Suerte when he lifted University of the East to a gutsy 89-88 upset of La Salle on Saturday for its first win in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament.
If the Red Warriors' confidence in Suerte may be surprising to some, that shouldn't be the case all along.
After all, this was not the first time the two-time CESAFI MVP played the role of the hero for his team.
It was almost a deja vu, actually.
Almost a year prior, Suerte delivered back-to-back three-pointers to carry University of the Visayas to an 81-78 win over University of San Carlos -- no less on his birthday back in October 4, 2018.
"Naka-shoot ako ng dalawang three points with just seconds to play. Yung pangalawa game-winner," he reflected of that memorable CESAFI game.
That was almost the same case this time out.
Suerte's first trey with 15.4 ticks left put UE up, 86-85, but Aljun Melecio responded with a three of his own with 10.8 seconds remaining to give La Salle the 88-86 lead.
"Sa totoo lang, ang galing niya," he said of the sweet-shooting Melecio. "Ang talas ng shooting niya. Grabe siya sa perimeter, sa three-points. Sobrang shooter niya eh."
But the pride of Monkayo, Compostela Valley would not be denied, rising over three defenders to bury the game-winning long bomb with 3.2 seconds to spare.
"Nag-overtake yung isang boses sa utak ko na sabi, 'Kailangan na nating manalo.' Nasa isip ko kanina, positive na lang at bawat bitaw ko mashoo-shoot talaga. So yun, na-shoot ko," he said.
That was the crowning moment for Suerte's career outing as he finished with 31 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
The 6-foot-3 swingman, however, shared that he's not satisfied yet as he seeks to further his resume in this lone UAAP year.
"Just keep on pushing. Gusto kong matulungan pa yung mga bata sa team namin para in the future madala nila yung team na ito sa other seasons," he said after already establishing himself as the go-to player for this year's Red Warriors squad four games into the season.
"Thank you na naka-isa na, pero next game, balik ulit yung fighting spirit. Wala nang relax-relax kasi di ka na pwede mag-relax eh."