Tautuaa not shirking from big challenge

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    ATTACK MODE: Moala Tautuaa goes to the basket off Magnolia’s Jackson Corpuz in last Sunday’s game.
    ATTACK MODE: Moala Tautuaa goes to the basket off Magnolia’s Jackson Corpuz in last Sunday’s game.

    MO TAUTUAA is not one toturn down any kind of resposibility, more so now that he has a very big void to fill at San Miguel Beer.

    Tautuaa took over the starting spot at center for the injured June Mar Fjardo and promptly led the Beermen to a 94-78 victory over Magnolia last Sunday in a well-attended game that ushered in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    Tautuaa led all scorers with 20 points to go along with 11 rebounds and two blocks in 41 minutes.

    Terrence Romeo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot also finished in double figures as SMB passed its first major test playing without its six-time MVP.

    Most of the spotlight belonged to Tautuaa, although he was quick to deflect some of the credit.

    “My role is still the same. Coach is adjusting to us as his new team. I mean, not new team, but like without June Mar, he’s adjusting to us and putting us in successful situations,” said Tautuaa.

    “That’s what’s happening. Today, it’s just another game. Props go to coach (Leo Austria).”

    Making special mention of Austria is a must for Tautuaa, who became the focal point of the team’s pre-season adjustments since Fajardo went down with a leg injury early last month and will now take about six months just to heal.

    Tautuaa admitted the Magnolia game is a big confidence booster for him, but his teammates could easily shine in their other games as well.

    “You saw me today, I was getting the ball quite often,” said the Fil-Tongan, who had the same role while at NorthPort before getting traded to SMB late last season.

    “Right now, it’s an equal opportunity team. We gotta play together, so yes, it’s the same thing like in Northport, where they’re gonna give it to the open man and expose what’s working. Just continue to feed what’s working.”

    That ploy didn’t include Tautuaa when he first came to the Beermen as his minutes and touches decreased. But while he was with the Batang Pier he did enough to earn the nod as Season 44’s Most Improved Player, his first individual award that for him validated all his hard work.

    “I finally got something, you know. I was proud. I mean, I worked hard, and I just wanted to get something from last conference, you know, making sure to award myself. To let myself know to keep going,” beamed Tautuaa.

    “You know, if I keep working, something will come from it, and I finally got something from it, I mean, I keep going now.”

    Also elated with the result was Austria, whose squad surged to as much as a 60-37 spread before again pouring it on after Magnolia whittled its deficit to just 54-61.

    “Masaya ako dahil na-surprise ako sa nilaro ng mga bata. Both offense and defense, they played really well,” gushed Austria.