MANILA, Philippines — High School coach Gilbert Malabanan was happy with the way Shawn Umali presented himself in the Pirates’ opening win over the University of St. Benilde in the Season 99 boys basketball tournament of the NCAA.
Umali played despite an ankle injury and won with 14 points and 6 rebounds. He even made a pair of free throws under pressure to crown his efficiency.
“This is new for us. “Di naman nakaka-shoot ng foul shot ‘yon eh (He can’t even make his free throws),” Malabanan said jokingly after his team’s 85-81 victory.
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“But actually, Shawn Umali is a fighter. Even though he got injured twice, I asked him if he could play or not because I don’t want to bet on the kid’s health.
Malabanan said Umali injured his ankle twice during the physical encounter against the Blazers, whom the Pirates beat for the first time since Malabanan took over as coach in the ’97 season.
A limping Umali played in pain form in the fourth quarter to spice up the Lyceum victory.
“He told me, ‘no coach, I can play,’ and for me, I always tell my players that I trust them with all my heart. If you can play, then play. If you can’t, then you can’t.
“He told me he could, so I let him play and the good thing is it had an incredible result.”
JM Bravo and Enoch Valdez also shined for Lyceum with 18 and 16 points respectively.
The Pirates, who reached the final four last season, are aiming for a 2-0 start against defending champion Letran on Wednesday.