NCAA 95 Finals: Game 2 loss fuels Letran to title conquest

Mark Escarlote on Nov 19, 2019 09:39 PM
NCAA 95 Finals: Game 2 loss fuels Letran to title conquest
Letran used its Game 2 loss as motivation to complete a Cinderella story. (Photo by Arvin Lim)

When Bonbon Batiller missed a championship-winning reverse lay-up in Game 2 of the NCAA Season 95 seniors basketball Finals series and San Beda University living to fight another day, many doubted Letran’s ability to recover from a loss.

The Red Lions, holding on to its bid for a four-peat, looked ready to turn the tables around in the series decider.

But the Knights proved their doubters wrong.

The moon and the stars aligned Tuesday night for the Intramuros-based squad as Letran completed a storybook finish with an 81-79 victory over dethroned San Beda U at the jampacked MOA Arena.

Destiny fulfilled for the Knights.

“There’s always a reason for everything. ‘Yun ang sinasabi ko sa mga players para hindi sila ma-down and madala pa rin ang momentum going to today’s game,” said Tan, recalling how he comforted his squad after a 76-79 Game 2 loss last Friday.

Tan just needed to remind his boys that they had faced adversities before and emerged triumphant each time to get to where they are.

It started with the elimination round push to claim the third seed in the stepladder semis and continued with the knockout matches against San Sebastian College and the favored no. 2 Lyceum of the Philippines University to the shocking Game 1 win in the Finals. Letran made miracles.

They just needed to make another one.

“‘Yung pagkatalo namin sa second game maraming nagsasabi na hindi na daw kami makakabangon,” said Tan. “We have a lot of trials during the whole season naman. Lahat ng mga laban sa stepladder hindi naman ibinigay sa atin ng basta-basta. Ang mga panalo nun carried us, yung momentum, until this series.”

Hope and faith, Tan preached.

“Playing a team like San Beda, 18-0, defending champion alam nating mahirap pero again walang imposible sabi ko sa mga players,” said the mentor, who last year was Letran’s consultant and team manager before taking over the reins from Jeff Napa. “’Stay positive, continue the momentum na na-gain natin during the elimination and sa stepladder, we’ll be OK. Nandoon lang tayo wag tayo bibitaw.’”

Instead of feeling down after their defeat, the Knights found comfort with each other.

“After we lost Game 2, usually kasi may mga teams na medyo sumasabog na kaagad,” said Tan. “Nakita ko ang maturity ng mga players when we went back sa drawing board sa practice namin, instead of malungkot and magkagulo sila and sisihan nagtatawanan pa sila.”

He knew they’ll be OK in Game 3.

“Nandoon ang composure nila, nandoon ang camaraderie. Mas naging buo nu’ng pagkatalo sa Game 2. Sa ganoong klase na nakikita ko sa team, sa mga players ko, naniniwala ako na may chance manalo ngayon sa third game,” Tan said.

“Ang usapan namin no regrets, whatever result, basta we work for everything we have to work. Bahala na si Lord,” he added. “’Yun nakampihan lang kami ng swerte rin, yun ang pinakamagandang kakampi ngayon sa ganitong klaseng game na knockout game.”

Tan’s hunch was right.

The Knights owned the night.



Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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