In a sport like basketball, a premium will always be placed on points, but there are times when moments define a game, or better yet, a championship series. These moments become special, particularly with how players respond to situations that are thrown to them.
Game 5 of the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals was a case in point.
Jayson Castro had rolled his ankle and exited the game with 7:29 left in the third quarter. At that time, the game (and perhaps even the championship) was hanging in the balance with the score tied at 61 and the TNT Tropang Giga had just lost one of their most trusted players and with the San Miguel Beermen.
Things looked uncertain until Kelly Williams entered the game during the latter portion of the third quarter.
Williams knocked down a three-pointer with 1:55 left before the fourth quarter, igniting an 11-1 run that gave the Tropang Giga an 84-75 lead heading into the final period. The Beermen would continue to make a last-ditch effort to grab the lead back, but big time plays from Williams in the last two minutes of the game pretty much handed TNT the game and put them within a win of their second consecutive All-Filipino conference title.
Aside from making the right plays on offense, Williams was battling six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo on defense, jockeying for position and doing whatever he could to make things difficult for the 2022 Honda Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference. Preventing Fajardo from scoring remains an impossible task, so limiting his effectiveness has thus been the goal for Williams and the Tropang Giga.
At the end of Game 5, Williams finished with 21 points, one more than Fajardo, on 14 shots and four 3-pointers. The nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals he also had only added credence to his all-around impact on what could be the penultimate game of the conference.
Years from now, Williams’ efforts may be remembered only by those who were involved or closely followed the series, but this does not diminish its value considering where the first overall pick in the 2006 PBA Draft was a few years ago.
Williams had already retired almost two years ago, announcing what was supposed to be the end of his career through social media on September 7, 2020. A conversation with TNT head coach Chot Reyes led to a change of heart for Williams and it was then no coincidence that the Tropang Giga won the Philippine Cup title in his first All-Filipino Conference back and are now on the verge of consecutive conference championships.
It’s also easy to forget that Williams already turned 40 back on February 7, since his 27.1 minutes per contest in nine games during the elimination round of the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup were the most since the 27.2 minutes per game he averaged during the 38th season of the PBA back in 2012 and 2013. In his younger years, Williams was quite the athlete himself (although he still shows flashes of that athleticism once in a while), even becoming the PBA MVP in his second year in the league.
TNT’s team captain has set the tone by taking on arguably the most difficult assignment in this championship series, more so when one considers how many games he has played in this conference and over a career that spans more than 15 years. Younger players on the Tropang Giga squad then have no excuses and have followed his lead, with the likes of Poy Erram and Troy Rosario providing the support and being on the receiving end of some of his passes.
Kelly Williams may have had his moment in Game 5 of the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals even if the importance of his role throughout the series never changed. Unlike his head coach, the attention probably doesn’t matter for Williams, since fulfilling championship aspirations take precedence over everything.
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