MANILA, Philippines -- Justin Gutang was not even supposed to play in De La Salle-College of St. Benilde's (CSB) game against Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) on Tuesday, as he was dealing with the flu.
CSB head coach TY Tang did not put Gutang in his starting line-up, and Gutang watched from the bench as the Blazers trailed, 14-13, after the first quarter against the Generals.
Come the second quarter, the versatile forward dusted himself off and entered the game, even though he was not at 100%.
"It's always a struggle seeing your team, your brothers fight their hearts out on the court, and then seeing them struggle," Gutang explained after the game.
"I can't stay on the bench and watch," he admitted.
Gutang ended up playing nearly 18 minutes, and scored 12 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and dished out 2 assists in what turned out to be a 62-56 win for the Blazers. He played a role in their 9-0 run to end the third quarter, that put them in control of the game for good.
"I just wanted to hopefully give them some energy if I play, went in the court, hopefully they wake up and play as hard and as intense as they usually do," said the forward.
Gutang's effort was praised by Tang, who noted that the player asked if he could sit out before the game -- only to change his mind when he saw his team struggling.
"That's the kind of attitude that sometimes are not taught. Sometimes you can't teach. It's just winning ways for you, the attitude that you want an athlete to always have," said Tang.
"That fire, that passion that he wants to keep competing and playing and trying to help his teammates," he added. "He ended up playing well, and I thought he could have given us more."
Gutang was not the only player to miss the game, as Clemente Leutcheu is currently hospitalized. Still, CSB grabbed a crucial victory that snapped a six-game losing streak, and stayed in the hunt for a Final 4 spot.
Despite the win, the Blazers' fate is not in their hands, as they have a 7-8 record with three games left in their schedule.
"Right now, we're not worried about our record. We're worried about, like coach said, getting better every day," said Gutang.
"We just have to handle business and take it one game at a time."
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