Are the Stags headed toward another golden age?
ON THE WAY. San Sebastian has officially returned to relevance.
Whatever happens from here, the NCAA 93 Men’s Basketball Tournament was an unquestioned success for San Sebastian College-Recoletos.
After making their way back into the Final Four, their first since 2013, the Golden Stags are now one win away from the Finals.
To do so, they have rung off three consecutive victories in elimination games – one against University of Perpetual Help, one against Colegio de San Juan de Letran, and one against Jose Rizal University.
And of course, they are nothing but glad to have come this far. “Excited kami kasi isang panalo na lang, nasa Finals na kami. Ang goal kasi namin is mag-champion kaya salamat sa panginoon na unti-unti, natutupad na namin,” main man Michael Calisaan said.
Of course, standing in the way of that goal is defending champion San Beda College which Baste will meet in a knockout bout on November 7.
Nobody knows what could happen then, but what’s clear is that the Red Lions own a 2-0 edge in head-to-head meetings between the two teams in the tournament.
What’s clearer, however, is that the boys from Recto are serious about contending again, whether that be right now or in the near future.
That is something that haven’t been able to do since the golden age of “The Pinatubo Trio” of Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual, and Ian Sangalang.
Now, however, they have built upon their 8-10 finish a season ago with a semifinals finish, at the very least, this time around.
Without a doubt, the key to it all has been the arrival of head coach Egay Macaraya.
A champion coach who established Centro Escolar University as a dynasty in the NAASCU and then in the UCBL, he is now giving his all to be able to do the same for his alma mater.
The proof comes from the mouths of the San Sebastian players themselves. Asked what difference Macaraya has brought, Calisaan answered, “Marami po. Sa disiplina po lalo kasi dati po, kami, hindi kami nag-eextra (work). Ngayon, lahat po naging masipag.”
He then continued, “Lahat, gustong manalo. Hindi tulad nang dati na basta laro lang po kami.”
Indeed, that extra work has been evident in Calisaan himself who has emerged as an all-around offensive threat with per game counts of 15.5 points in 40.4 percent shooting to go along with 8.6 rebounds. He also has a total of 21 threes under his belt.
This, after being known strictly as an inside operator in his first three years in the league.
“Yun yung hard work na laging sinasabi ni coach na every practice, talagang tumitira kami ng madaming three-points. Hindi lang 200, hindi lang 300,” he shared. “Basta lagi po niya akong kino-correct kung paano yung shooting.”
And so, win against San Beda or not, Macaraya sees this breakthrough season as just the start of serious contention for the Golden Stags. “Hindi mo matatanggal yung puso at yung desire to win. That’s why deserve it (playoffs) right now,” he said.
He then continued, “Hopefully, magtuloy-tuloy na because they proved na wala na yung jinx-jinx. We’re in (the playoffs) and we’ll just show them the character ng San Sebastian.”
From here on out, the mentor is certain that he will continue to see the heart and the desire to win from Baste. “I always ask them if they’re still with me kasi ako, I always have the heart and the desire to win every game. So if they say na, ‘Coach, kasama mo kami!’ then wala na akong rason (na magduda),” he said.
He then continued, “Hopefully, ‘di sila magsawa, ‘di sila makuntento rito sa ginagawa naming pagpapanalo. It’s still a long way to go.”
And he concluded, “One more game then who knows, it will be Lyceum-San Sebastian (in the Finals).”
Good to see you again in the playoff stage, San Sebastian!
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.