Coach Joe calls SJ Belangel Ateneo’s heart and soul

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Mar 02, 2018 07:48 PM
Coach Joe calls SJ Belangel Ateneo’s heart and soul
SJ Belangel was the most consistent player Ateneo had all throughout its championship

Kai Sotto proved that he was well worthy of all the hype as he helped Ateneo de Manila High School complete a season sweep of the UAAP 80 Juniors Basketball Tournament.

Notching a triple-double in Game 1 and then hitting the go-ahead basket for the championship in Game 3, he is now a UAAP Jrs. champion and Finals MVP.

With the towering teen continuing to shine bright as the future both in Katipunan and of the Philippines as a whole, it has been easy to forget that there’s actually somebody else who steered the Blue Eaglets to their still league-leading 19th title.

From the start of the season, SJ Belangel has been the most consistent player for the blue and white – and he only got better and better as the tournament went on.

With per game counts of 17.2 points in 53.2 percent shooting, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.7 steals, he rightfully earned a place in the Mythical Team and earned a championship for his school.

More than that, however, it was his heroics that even made Ateneo’s season sweep possible.

In the last game of the elimination round up against rival Nazareth School of National University, they found themselves trailing by 14 in the final frame before the court general took over.

Unleashing 16 of his 31 points in the payoff period, Belangel single-handedly willed his team onto another win – another win that ultimately ended up as a season sweep.

For that, head coach Joe Silva wanted to make it clear that the Blue Eaglets only went as far as Belangel took them. “Si SJ is our anchor. Si SJ is our heart and soul,” he said.

In the eyes of the Bacolod native, however, he is just doing what he was already meant to be doing a year ago. “Last year kasi, sinabi na rin ni coach Joe na ako ang heart and soul. Kaya lang, hindi ko nagawa (yung dapat gawin),” he shared.

He then continued, “Ngayon, tinutupad ko lang yung promise ko, bumabawi ako.”

Belangel and this very same Ateneo lineup went toe-to-toe with eventual champion Far Eastern University-Diliman last season, but failed to break through.

This time around, they did more than break through – acing the tough test put up by the very game Bullpups.

Clearly, the Blue Eaglets’ prized point guard is a man of his word. As Silva put it, “He’s on a mission to prove something to himself and to prove something to Ateneo.”

Mission accomplished indeed, Mr. Belangel. Mission accomplished.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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