STARS COLLIDE: Letran's Cruz vs San Sebastian's Ortuoste

Tricia Robredo on Jul 22, 2015 07:22 PM
STARS COLLIDE: Letran's Cruz vs San Sebastian's Ortuoste
GUARD DUEL. Letran's Mark Cruz and San Sebastian's Jamil Ortuoste were going at it in another classic game still early into the NCAA season.

We’re not even halfway through the first round of NCAA 91 Basketball, yet there have already been a number of thrillers that showcased what the league is all about. There was the Mapua–Perpetual game a few weeks ago, the Mapua–Arellano match that went into overtime last Friday, and now, Letran versus San Sebastian last Tuesday.

The Knights and the Stags came into the battle under very different circumstances. Letran came off a morale-boosting win against the San Beda Red Lions, while San Sebastian was looking to bounce back from a sorry loss to the Perpetual Altas.

These two rivals also concluded the day on opposite sides of the spectrum, with the Knights keeping their record spotless and the Stags suffering back-to-back losses.

It seemed like San Sebastian had it going for the most part, even leading the scoreboard with double digits in the second half. On the other hand, the Letranites looked like they were in some sort of trouble, missing their shots and getting slapped with several calls.

However, the latter, led by captain Mark Cruz, was able to get their act together just in time as Jamil Ortuoste and his Stags failed to execute a play that would have saved their cause.

What was it like for you and your team coming into this afternoon’s game?

Mark Cruz: “Coming from the win against San Beda, medyo confident kami, but before the game, hinuddle ko sila at sinabing kailangan pa rin ilabas ang effort. Hindi pwede maging complacent.”

Jamil Ortuoste: “Pinaghandaan talaga namin ito. Alam naming iba ang Letran this year compared to last.”

Story of the first half – San Sebastian was leading and Letran kept trying to catch up. What was going through your head?

Mark: “'Di namin ma-work yung shooting, lalo na ako. Siyempre nafu-frustrate ako pero buti nandiyan yung teammates ko. Ni-remind ako nang ni-remind nila ako, ‘Kailangan ka namin. Leader ka namin.’”

Jamil: “Sinasabi ko na atin ang larong ito. Pinaghandaan natin ito. Ayaw ko talaga itong ibigay sa kanila kasi rival at masarap sana makuha ang panalo na ito lalo na dahil wala pa silang talo.”

Then the Knights were starting to wipe off the Stags’ double-digit lead.

Mark: “Nung umpisa na nababaon na kami, hindi maiiwasan yung pakiramdam na parang wala nang pag-asa. Pero mas malaki ang puso ko kaysa height ko kaya lumaban pa rin ako.”

Jamil: “Confident pa rin naman ako nun kasi malaki tiwala ko sa teammates ko. Lagi ko ngang sinasabi na wag masyadong mag-rely sa akin at kay Bradwyn (Guinto). Kapag kaya mag-create, mag-create lang. Galing din naman kasi kami diyan at diyan kami natuto.”

Make or break. Both Mark and Jamil were given the licenses to shoot very crucial baskets for their teams. Mark was able to make them while Jon was left feeling down and disappointed after being unable to execute. 

Mark: “Hindi naman sa pang-ano, pero naramdaman ko na. Na-feel ko na papasok. Nagtiwala sa akin teammates ko. Na-swerte naman ako. Thank you, God!”

Jamil: “Ang bigat sa pakiramdam, pero pagpasa din kasi sa akin nung bola, basa eh. Hindi ko na-release nang maayos. Siguro ganun talaga, hindi para sa amin yung laro. May ibang plano para sa amin si God.”

Post-game thoughts:

Mark Cruz earned for himself the moniker Ant-man after leading the ridiculous comeback. To this, he reacted, “Bagay naman sa akin kasi maliit ako. Siyempre nakakatuwa kasi Ant-man is a superhero, diba? So parang feeling mo, superhero ka rin.”

Meanwhile, senior Jamil Ortuoste must lead in the efforts of saving his team while it’s still early in the season. “Dito, nabeterano nila kami. Control naman sana namin, sa end game lang talaga nawala. Kaunting physical and mental conditioning pa. Konting experience pa,” he said.

After the game, the Stags were waiting for coach Rodney Santos back in the dugout, expecting to receive a sermon for the game they let slip away. Instead, the mentor just invited and led the team to prayer and told his boys to go home shortly afterwards.

For a coach that always has a thing or two to say, this behavior was quite unusual for struggling San Sebastian. “Pala-salita siya kaya nagulat kami na ganun at kadalasan, kami yung nagle-lead ng dasal pero ngayon siya. Mas mabigat ang ganito sa pakiramdam. Parang mas gusto ko na nasigawan nalang kami,” Ortuoste shared.

Despite their 4-0 win-loss record, it’s also too early for the Letranites to be resting on their laurels. The import-less and small Knights have a scheduled meeting against MVP Scottie Thompson, Nigerian Bright Akhuetie and the Perpetual Altas on Thursday. Now that’s a pretty exciting match to be watching out for because as they say, doon na magkakaalaman.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @jpgrobredo.

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