Joe Devance was not even supposed to suit up in Barangay Ginebra's last couple of games in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup. In fact, he was advised to rest for another week and a half.
But with injuries piling up for the Gin Kings, the veteran forward decided to play through pain to keep his team afloat.
Hurt and all, Devance still played a key role in Ginebra's 110-102 win over San Miguel Beermen on Sunday.
The many-time champion was instrumental in Ginebra's breakaway in the fourth period, dropping 10 of his 17 points for the Gin Kings who got back on winning track for a 4-1 win-loss record even in the absence of injured Greg Slaughter (ankle), Japeth Aguilar (calf), Jervy Cruz (out for the season with bone spurs), and Sol Mercado (knee).
"It was a few days ago, Japeth got hurt in practice. He got hurt so I was like, 'Oh man, we don't have any bigs, it's just Prince (Caperal)' so I just tried in practice and see how I feel," Devance told reporters after the match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"I just told coach that if I can get through it, I'll do whatever I can to get through it. That was the day before Blackwater. That was my first practice. So I was able to get through it. We lost the Blackwater game but, luckily we won today, so it's okay."
Devance is far from full strength. But he wants to help his team so bad he went against his doctor's advice to undergo surgery.
"Probably like 60%. My knees are pretty bad right now - my left knee and my left foot. Actually, one of the doctors suggested I get surgery but I really wanna do everything I can to not get surgery. I'm just trying to figure out a way to help the team win," he said.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone tipped his hat off to his prized forward, with whom he won a Grand Slam with the Purefoods franchise. But he was the least surprised with Devance's resilience. "First of all, I gotta give credit to Joe. He just said he would play through the pain. He's taking a lot of medication to play through the pain," Cone said.
"He saw that Japeth went out in practice before our [Blackwater] game and he came up to me and said, 'Coach, I'll try.' Looking around, I said we really needed him. My hat goes off to Joe for fighting through everything and continuing to play. He's done that his whole career."
Meanwhile, Arwind Santos refused to point fingers in the aftermath of the Beermen's 102-110 loss to Ginebra
The former PBA MVP said the Gin Kings simply did everything right in the final stretch to come away with their fourth win in five games.
While they miss the presence of four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, Santos said it was the lack of preparation that led to their defeat, which dropped them to 2-2 in the season-ending conference.
"Maybe we really lack in preparation for this conference," said Santos, whose team is coming off a stinging loss to the Gin Kings in the Commissioner's Cup finals, in Filipino.
Fajardo is out with a shin injury. Marcio Lassiter, meanwhile, also sat out the match due to sore eyes.
"We all know they are a big piece in our offense. But some of Ginebra's players are also injured. It was a good matchup," he said.
Without the two stars, the Beermen actually did a fine job almost the entire match before the Gin kings seized control to clinch the win.
The good news is, it is not too late for the Beermen to recover. There is still plenty of time to get their act together in time for Fajardo's possible return later this conference.
"What's good here is we can still salvage this campaign. There are still games, and I'm hopeful we'll win them," he said. "We have to double our effort in practice."
San Miguel will try to bounce back on September 30 when it takes on Magnolia at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.