Letran’s Napa: ‘We fell short, kailangang mag-move on’

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Sep 13, 2016 09:01 PM
Letran’s Napa: ‘We fell short, kailangang mag-move on’
SO LONG, FAREWELL. Jeff Napa promised Intramuros that everything will be better a season from now.

Colegio de San Juan de Letran’s long-awaited, much-wanted title reign came to an early end on Tuesday at the San Juan Arena.

Proving to be still no match for Intramuros rival Mapua Institute of Technology, the Knights’ uninspiring standing for the season became an even more uninspiring 8-9.

As such, the best finish they would be able to muster is 9-9. With the fourth-running Cardinals already sitting at 10 wins, there would be no way the now-dethroned champions would be able to advance into the next round.

Letran are now the first defending champions to be unable to defend their title in the playoffs since 2000. Reacting to their early exit, coach Jeff Napa minced no words in saying, “Although we fell short, kailangang mag-move on.”

Indeed, “fell short” was the perfect way to explain what happened to the Knights during the season. Following a 5-2 start, they suffered five straight setbacks – by a heartbreaking average of 4.8 points.

The now-dethroned champions would not be able to recover from that losing streak and would now have to watch the Final Four from home.

For their first-year mentor, however, the silver linings are easy to be seen. “Na-experience na namin ang pinakamabigat na struggle this season. Sa mga maiiwan, na-experience na nila yun and we will bounce back stronger,” he said.

That experience may very well be much-needed for a unit that boasts of the likes of Rey Nambatac, but is actually made up mostly of youngsters. Asked what their greatest point of improvement is, Napa answered, “Maturity (ang pinaka-nagkulang sa amin). Hindi mo kasi mare-replace yung Mark Cruz at Kevin Racal.”

He then continued, “May mga sobrang bata na pumalit at talagang binibigyan namin ng experience. Hopefully, yung pain ngayon, bitbit nila para magpursigi lalo.”

Nambatac will stay on for his fifth and final season, but he will no longer have Felix Apreku, Mcjour Luib, and Jom Sollano by his side. As such, Letran has no choice but to turn to their youngsters if they are to redeem themselves a year from now.

And although this current season is yet to wrap up, Napa is already putting out a challenge to his wards. Asked about his possible roster for next year, he answered, half-joking and half-serious, “Lahat sila tryout.”

Still, the 35-year-old has one promise for the faithful over in Muralla. “I’m confident we will have a different story next year. We will be more 100 percent prepared,” he said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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