By Ivan Saldajeno
PASAY--A scary moment took place late in the crucial PBA Philippine Cup match between Alaska and Rain Or Shine on Wednesday night as Jaypee Mendoza took a hard fall after collaring the rebound off a missed triple from James Yap with 26.1 seconds left in the game.
The forward out of San Beda became groggier after Jericho Cruz accidentally hit him while going for the ball, forcing the medical team present at the Cuneta Astrodome to stretcher him out of the court and into the Aces' dugout.
"[The impact of the fall] was very minimal, but the bigger problem was when he fell down, he got hit to the neck. The muscle went into spasm, so the first thing I did was to examine the extremities if they are functional," Alaska physician Facundo Sun told some reporters after the game following an initial check-up on Mendoza's condition.
However, Alaska fans can now take a sigh of relief as Sun assured that Mendoza will do fine despite the hard fall.
"We're doing laser therapy hopefully to preempt the swelling. [It's] nothing serious, so we just try to stop the swelling and the inflammation. He should be OK by Sunday hopefully," continued Sun.
As an added sign, Mendoza was seen walking on his own out of the Aces' locker room.
"Nafe-feel ko naman yung legs at kamay ko. [At first], di ko naramdaman yung sa leeg ko, parang nanigas, but after a while, nag-loosen up naman yung sa leeg ko," the forward later said.
Still, it did not stop Sun, Mendoza, and even Coach Alex Compton from worrying about the fall especially when they remembered a similar accident that took place a decade ago.
Eugene Tejada fell badly following a rebounding battle between him and Mick Pennisi late into a May 14, 2006 game between Star, formerly Purefoods Chunkee, and Red Bull at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Tejada suffered neck and spinal cord injuries during the awkward landing, which turned out to be career-ending for him.
"I got a little scared. Eugene Tejada is a good friend. He is an awesome and incredible person. I love that guy. In the last 30 seconds or so, I was at la la land," Compton bared how he felt after the Mendoza fall during the post-game press conference following Alaska's 94-89 win over ROS.
[Related Story: Alaska wins squeaker over ROS, secures top two spot]
Mendoza, who was just in high school when the Tejada incident happened, said, "Napanood ko [yung laro], so noong nangyari sa akin yun, biglang pumasok sa isip ko yung nangyari doon."
"We don't want to have another Eugene," quipped Sun, who also said Mendoza will be further evaluated ahead of the Aces' quarterfinal clash against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night at the same place where the Tejada incident happened.
In closing, Mendoza said, "Nagpapasalamat ako kay God na safe ako at hindi serious itong injury na ito."
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