Colegio de San Juan de Letran got the better of University of Perpetual Help in an overtime classic, Friday at Filoil Flying V Centre.
Bonbon Batiller topped the scoring column, Jeo Ambohot hit the go-ahead basket, and Jerrick Balanza got the most key defensive stop.
All throughout, however, the Knights were energized by little-known Ato Ular.
And in the end, it was actually Ular's numbers that were most eye-popping - 19 points, efficient 9-of-16 shooting, 13 rebounds, and a block.
As it turns out, those stout statistics were all in response to Bonnie Tan's challenge. "Tinakot ko kasi 'to e kasi diba sa preseason, nakilala na siya sa rebounding, nakaka-double-digits siya, pero the past two games, single-digits lang e. So tinakot ko 'to na pag single-digits pa rin, gagamit na ako ng ibang bigs," the head coach told reporters post-game.
For reference, he was averaging 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds prior to the game.
He then continued, "So ayun, medyo natakot ata kaya he had 13 rebounds."
Right after the veteran mentor said that, however, Ular revealed that he was actually two rebounds short of his quota. As he put it, "Kulang pa, coach!"
Whatever it is, the 6-foot-4 forward is just glad to make the most out of the break he has been given. "Masaya lang po ako kasi napapatunayan ko na kaya ko. Binabalik ko lang talaga yung tiwala ni coach Bonnie dun sa pagbibigay ng break niya sa akin," he said.
Ular was recruited from Tarlac by former head coach Aldin Ayo to play in Season 92 where he was in the lineup, but failed to make noise.
He then fell short of making the cut the next two years before finally capitalizing on the golden opportunity brought about by the coaching change from Jeff Napa to Tan. "Hindi lang po talaga ako nagpa-discourage kasi nasa isip kong babawi at makakabalik ako. Ang nasa isip ko lang po nung is babalik akong mas magaling at mas malakas," he shared.
Even after his breakout, though, the 24-year-old said he is far from finished. "Next game, 15 (rebounds) na dapat. 'Di na pwedeng bumaba ng 15," he expressed.
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