IN the din of the moment at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday night, with the game clock ticking down and everybody up on their feet in anticipation of a thrilling finish, there was one man that mattered the most for University of the East gunner Roi Sumang.
It was Paul Lee, who happens to be Sumang's neighbor, mentor, and idol rolled into one.
With the former King Warrior sitting at ringside egging him on, Sumang seized his moment in the spotlight, hitting a pull-up three-pointer over the outstretched arms of Bobby Ray Parks to lead UE to a pulsating 71-67 over the National University Bulldogs.
"Talagang tinuro ko siya (at) sabi ko sa kanya, 'Para sa iyo 'yun, Paul'," said Sumang, who celebrated the moment by walking over to ringside and exchanging high fives with Lee while teammates mobbed him.
The 22-year-old Tondo-raised guard then made the bonus free throw off Parks' foul to put the wraps on a victory that lifted all the pressure off the shoulders of the Warriors, the pre-tournament favorites who started their campaign with a loss to Far Eastern University.
More importantly for Sumang, the game-winning play enabled him to live up to the expectations of Lee, who had made a couple of those game-winning shots himself during his time with the Warriors.
And no one was prouder of Sumang than the man he replaced as UE's King Warrior.
"Syempre masaya ako, kasi para sa akin meron na naman player (ang UE) na ganyang magaling," said Lee of the third-year guard. "Magka-lugar pa kami kaya happy ako sa kanya na na-achieve na niya goal niya.
"Sana magtuluy-tuloy at 'wag siya magsawang mag-improve."
The reigning PBA Rookie of the Year knows Sumang too well, having seen him practice with the varsity team while still among the reserves during Lee's stay with the Warriors from 2007-2010.
"Noong ika-third year ko pa lang sa UE nandoon na siya (Sumang) sa amin kaya nakikita ko na kung paano siya maglaro," said the Rain or Shine playmaker. "Kung ano ang nakita ko sa kanya noon, ganoon din siya kaya deserving talaga siya kung asan siya nagyon."
Sumang took over as UE's top gun after Lee turned pro, but he couldn't get the attention he deserved because of all the losing seasons he had to endure with the Warriors.
On Saturday night, he made the one shot that people would not easily forget.
Lee, who still joins the Red Warriors' daily practice despite his busy schedule in the PBA and spends extra time with the team after training, said he never once doubted that Sumang would hit that shot.
"Sa tagal na naming magkakilala, araw-araw pa kami magkasama, alam ko walang dahilan na di niya magagawa 'yung tira kanina," said Lee. "Alam ko yun gagawin niya."