NCAA 95: Bonbon Batiller owes championship to former coach Jeff Napa
Santino Honasan on Nov 19, 2019 09:33 PM
"Kung may pasasalamatan ako sa grupo na ito, bago pa si Coach Bonnie, si Coach Jeff Napa. Unang-una, [nung] tinanggal ako sa UE nung 2017, basura na ako, pinulot ako ni Coach Jeff, kumbaga pinaliguan, inalagaan, ngayon champion na," - Bonbon Batiller (Photo: Arvin Lim)
In Game 2 of the NCAA Season 95 Men's Basketball Finals last November 15, the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights were within one basket away from pulling off an improbable series sweep of defending champion and favorites, the San Beda University Red Lions.
It would turn into heartbreak for the Knights however, after Bonbon Batiller botched an undergoal stab in the final seconds that would have been a go-ahead basket. San Beda would end up winning, 79-76, to force a deciding third game.
Batiller put the blame for the Game 2 loss on himself, and came out guns blazing in the deciding game, helping lead Letran to a 81-79 Game 3 win to recpature the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Batiller was hot early, as he scored seven of Letran's first 9 points and went on to finish with 19 markers to go along with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
"Isa lang masasabi ko, hindi na madulas yung bola," Batiller said with a laugh during the post-game presser.
Batiller quickly turned emotional however, as he recalled the rough road he took to get to becoming a champion in the NCAA.
Once a promising recruit for University of the East, Batiller found himself cast aside after just two seasons.
As Batiller recounted, it was former Letran head coach Jeff Napa that gave him a second chance, and for that, he has all the gratitude in the world.
"Kung may pasasalamatan ako sa grupo na ito, bago pa si Coach Bonnie, si Coach Jeff Napa. Unang-una, [nung] tinanggal ako sa UE nung 2017, basura na ako, pinulot ako ni Coach Jeff, kumbaga pinaliguan, inalagaan, ngayon champion na," Batiller shared, fighting off tears.
As it turns out, Napa was also the person responsible for bringing in Finals MVP Fran Yu.
"Dalawa kami ni Fran. Tinanong ako Coach Jeff, 'San si Fran Yu?' 'Coach, nasa Thailand.''Kontakin mo, tanong mo kung gusto niya mag-Letran.' Tinanong ko, 'Bata, gusto mo ba mag-Letran? Andito ako ngayon.' Sabi niya 'Sige, uwi ako diyan. Diyan tayo mag-laro sa Letran.'"
Like Batiller, Yu was also once a promising recruit with the Red Warriors, but was out of the team after just one season.
In Intramuros, Batiller and Yu were given another chance to prove themselves, and that's exactly what they set out to do, and did.
"Isa lang ang sinabi ko kay Fran, sabi ko 'Fran, kailangan natin ipakita dito, patunayan sa mga nag-doubt sa atin, mga hindi naniwala sa atin.'"
"Ayun, nakuha namin ni Fran yung championship. Ang laking pasasalamat ko kay Coach Jeff," Batiller concluded.