It isn't uncommon to see old heads still go at it on the hardwood and unleash their veteran moves against younger counterparts, albeit in spurts: Asi Taulava (44), Danny Seigle (41), Willy Wilson (37), Cyrus Baguio (37).
But to make an impact and even shape the outcome of a title race? That seems to be one of the prevailing storylines at the 2017 Governors' Cup Finals, where the league's "senior citizens" have been turning back the clock.
One is his team's top local scorer, while another is the next best player to Greg Slaughter off the bench.
As deafening as the Ginebra crowd already is, the cheering is amplified whenever Jayjay Helterbrand approaches the scorer's table. Game 4 of the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup Finals is still fresh in every local basketball fan's memory—the three three-pointers and 11 points on his 40th birthday that helped tie the series at two games apiece.
He had two points, two rebounds, and two assists while playing for almost a full quarter in Game 4. No longer the "Fast" he used to be, Helterbrand is visibly spent from keeping up with Meralco guards Baser Amer, Chris Newsome, and Garvo Lanete, who are all in their 20s.
The 2009 MVP didn't suit up last game, but with Sol Mercado (ankle injury) likely out for the series, who knows?
Just when you thought the Barangay couldn't get any louder, just wait until Helterbrand joins or is joined by Mark Caguioa, who has reinvented himself and redefined his moniker. From being Ginebra's main man for most of his 16-year career, the PBA's finest in 2012 has embraced the role of the reserve—still "The Spark," only this time (fittingly) with the second unit.
Watching him continue to hit the mid-range j and fool defenders under the basket—the way he grabs those kalawit rebounds—brings back memories of the 2000s scoring machine. It must be quite assuring for Coach Tim Cone that Caguiao is living up to his 2011 award of "Mr. Quality Minutes."
If the eternal "Fast and Furious" duo makes one final run tonight, then the balloons will fall.
Although if we're talking about the most important veteran in the series, there's no question about Reynel Hugnatan's value to the Bolts and its hopes of capturing the franchise' first-ever championship.
With his timely emergence, Ranidel de Ocampo's inavailability turned out to be a blessing in disguise (Get well soon, RDO). In their two wins, the long-haired stretch four averaged 18 points and converted a total of 11 treys, out of 20 attempts. He is also responsible for a pair of clutch assists to Durham in those victories.
For Meralco to force a do-or-die Game 7, Hugnatan has to really make it rain from deep.