PHILIP Manalang and Basilan-Jumbo Plastic Medical Depot waited all year to gain a shot at redemption after being denied a chance to bid for the MPBL Lakan Cup crown last March in Subic bubble by virtue of forfeiture due to a number of positive coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in its squad.

And they could have not completed it in a better fashion with Mr. Manalang, who was among those positive cases, draining the fitting game winner at the buzzer for the Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Invitational crown.

“Actually in the bubble, I was one of those tested positive of COVID-19 then,” shared Mr. Manalang after hitting the MPBL’s biggest shot to date to steer Basilan to a rousing 83-80 finale win over Nueva Ecija.

“It was destiny. This is God’s will,” he added, admitting that he burst into tears after Basilan’s forfeited campaign in the Southern Finals against eventual champion Davao Occidental.

The University of the East product actually missed his first eight attempts but did not hesitate to give it one more try, delivering the cherry on top of Basilan’s successful redemption tour.

Basilan bagged the inaugural Chooks-to-Go VisMin Super Cup title last August in Pagadian and the first Filbasket championship carrying the AICC Manila name last month in Subic before capturing the coveted MPBL gem.

The squad also pocketed the P2-million MPBL grand prize with Jerson Cabiltes being hailed as the first Ato Badolato Coach of the Year.

“I’ll cherish this forever, it’s an honor that I can be proud of. I’m honored to win this. I was the first recipient of Coach Ato Badolato Award,” said Mr. Cabiltes on the citation named after the late San Beda high school mentor. — John Bryan Ulanday