MANILA, Philippines – After seeing how NLEX rookie Kiefer Ravena dissected their defense in Game 1 of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series, Magnolia guard Jiovani Jalalon approached his coach with an idea.
Jalalon wanted to be the one to guard the prolific rookie, who has taken the PBA by storm with his superb performances in just his very first conference as a professional player.
“Sabi ko, ‘Coach, ibigay mo muna sa akin. Subukan ko lang,'” Jalalon said.
Jalalon had seen how Ravena put up 16 points in Game 1, an 88-87 triumph for the Road Warriors. It was Ravena who created the play that broke Magnolia’s back, when he assisted on Alex Mallari’s go-ahead triple. Ravena then proceeded to ice the game with a steal and a pair of free throws.
But Jalalon felt he could at least try to limit Ravena. He knew the former Ateneo star very well, as they had played together multiple times in international competitions and regularly practiced together in the national team as well.
“Sabi ko sa sarili ko, positive lang ako, kung anong gagawin ko sa depensa,” Jalalon said.
Jalalon got what he wished for: he was assigned to be Ravena’s primary defender in Game 2. He did not let his coach down, as the former Arellano guard harassed Ravena to a nine-point, five-turnover performance. On the other end, Jalalon fired nine points and dished out 10 assists, and Magnolia cruised to a 99-84 win to tie the best-of-seven series.
After the game, Ravena admitted that Jalalon’s defense had been a factor in his poor showing.
“You have to give credit to the defense eh. I saw that interview with Jio, the familiarity of him… that’s one of our perks, playing alongside each other in Gilas,” Ravena said.
“The battles we played internationally, and the practices we’ve had together – mayroon at mayroon ka talagang matututunan kung paano ‘yung tendencies ng isang tao,” he added.
Ravena lauded Jalalon for his effort, especially upon learning the Magnolia guard specifically asked for the assignment.
“Siguro inako niya na gusto niya talaga ako depensahan, kasi kilala niya ako,” Ravena said. “But I’ll be ready. I’ll be more ready on Wednesday.”
“I can’t be playing like this,” he added. “Especially in a series na andito na kami sa semis, kung gaano ka-importante ito sa amin.”
Jalalon, for his part, acknowledged that defending Ravena was a tough job. “Ang taas talaga ng IQ eh, ‘di mo talaga siya ma-stop,” he said of the former UAAP Most Valuable Player.
The young Magnolia guard said he will just continue to follow instructions from their coaching staff, hoping that it will work again on Wednesday.
“Sumunod lang talaga kami sa gusto ng coaches, kung anong pinapagawa nila. Nagawa namin ngayon,” he said. “Malaking bagay na nakuha din namin, nag-tie kami.”
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