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Freedom, trust end Letran’s ten-year drought

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The current Letran lineup is an unorthodox group of student-athletes that includes a pint-sized guard, a 6’4 center, a wing player that is forced to play four positions, among others. So how did coach Aldin Ayo combat the tall lineups of the other squads? The answer is simple, freedom and trust.

Freedom is defined as the power to determine action without restraint while not affecting the liberty of others.

The logic to coach Ayo’s offensive sets is that instead of being at the bottom end of the mismatches game-in and game-out, the rookie mentor utilized the skill sets of each individual and gave them the freedom run the offense. “Ang sinasabi ko kasi sa kanila if they want to do something, just do it,” Ayo remarked.

For Ayo, the system is secondary. “On offense kasi I tell them to just be spontaneous, maglaro lang kayo ng basketball,” he said. “Kung hindi niyo magawa yung gusto niyo dun tayo bumalik sa system. And basketball naman kasi very instinctive yan.”

This mindset confounded even the brightest minds in collegiate basketball today, San Beda head coach Jamike Jarin.

Having an imposing lineup that has an average height of 6’3, the Red Lions plowed through their opponents during the course of the season. In the Finals, Letran utilized their speed and arm length to disrupt San Beda’s defense en route to the championship. The 38-year old champion head coach credited this to the high basketball IQ of his troops.

“Isa sa mga strengths ng team na ito is matatalino ang mga to. Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘kung hindi kayo maging matalino san ba kayo pupulutin.’” Ayo disclosed. “Maliliit kami pero puwedeng palitan ng smarts.”

This freedom though was earned by the Knights and, surprisingly, by the rookie coach himself.

Senior Kevin Racal admitted that he knew nothing about Ayo when he was hired to coach and direct the Letran basketball program for the next four years.

NCAA 91 Letran vs. San Beda Game 3 - Racal-7478“Hindi na naman kami babalik next year,” Racal quipped when asked about what were his thoughts on Coach Ayo coming in. “Ako nung una hindi ko kilala si coach. Yun nga kasi hindi kami napang-abot sa Letran. Yung mga utility namin sabi sa amin siya yung magiging coach. “ He added that the fiery coach scared him when they first met. “Nakakatakot siya e, hindi kasi marunong mag smile. Pero yung ginawa niya sa amin, ang laking bagay hindi lang sa basketball.”

Ayo then shared how he earned the trust of his players during the team’s team-building session prior to the start of the NCAA season. “Sa team building namin nag set kami ng goals. Yung mga players sabi pumasok lang kami sa Final Four. Then, sabi ni Mark, ‘Coach pumasok lang tayo sa Final Four anything can happen na,’” he disclosed. “Ako yung last, so sinabi ko hindi ba kayo naniniwala na mag chachampion tayo? Many of them laughed, tinawanan ako. Siguro dahil hindi pa nag sisink-in. Until lang nung natalo namin JRU, yung second game namin, dun lang sila naniwala.”

Slowly, the Letran community started to trust and believe in the team as the Letran crowd slowly grew in numbers to witness the Knights. “After namin natalo yung lahat ng contenders, dun lang kami nakapagsabi na kaya namin. We kept on working hard, I kept on motivating them.” Even the priests that handle the prestigious institution increased their expectations as the wins kept coming. “Sabi sa akin ng mga pari, ni Father Vic, nung hinire nila ako, ‘Coach pumasok lang tayo sa Final Four, okay na kami.’ Pero nung nag 7-0 kami iba na sinabi ni Father,’go for the sweep.’”

NCAA 91 CSJL vs. MIT - Nieles jumper-3429With the trust that the whole community has bestowed upon him, it was time to instill Ayo’s tested system of forty minutes of chaos. “Yung sistema na ito naka-build na walang kinikinalang lamang,” he said about his pressing defense that is likened to Franz Pumaren’s nightmare press. “Sa probinsiya kasi kahit tambakan kami ng bente o trenta, trapin lang namin nananalo pa. Sipag lang talaga.” This system forced their opponents to commit a whopping 27.56 turnovers a game in the Elimination Round. Moreover, in the Finals, San Beda committed a total of 88 turnovers in three games that helped paved the way for the 17th seniors basketball crown for the Muralla cagers.

Ayo though admitted that there were turbulent times during the season that resulted in squabbles within the team. “Hindi madali, may mga away pero we make sure na lahat ng ginagawa namin may objectives. Hindi kami gumagawa ng kahit anong unneccessary.” Through those times, Ayo said that he humbled himself to his players that tested his patience. “Alam na nila Mark and ni K-Racs, binaba ko yung sarili ko sa kanila without compromising my authority. Ang dami nila ginawa na sa loob-loob ko kumukulo na ko. Being the leader, ako ang kelangan mag pasensiya. Bata rin kasi sila, I need to humble myself to them,” Ayo reflected.

With Cruz, Racal, and the Knights ending their ten-year odyssey, Ayo is set to go back to return to work to train a new batch of Knights that will don the Blue and Red. “After magcelebrate balik trabaho na ako. Marami pa kelangan trabahuin. Madami pa naka-reserve for next year.”

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Basketball

After getting first D-League experience, Zark’s-Lyceum ready to get loose

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After a hesitant performance in their PBA D-League debut last Thursday that resulted in a loss to the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burger-Lyceum Jawbreakers seemingly caught up with the league’s style of play on Tuesday.

Zark’s-Lyceum displayed their true form and stamped their class all over the Batangas-EAC Generals with a 37-point destruction, 112-75 — so far the biggest winning margin the franchise has ever had in its D-League history.

“Medyo adjusted na kami on everything — the calls and the teams we’re playing against with,” said Zark’s-Lyceum head coach Topex Robinson after the match at Pasig Sports Center. “But the things we want to mind are those things we control.

“We just have to keep on doing what we are doing. It’s more on replenishing na lang on our old ways.”

Robinson’s claim was strongly backed up by the numbers that the Jawbreakers produced.

CJ Perez had 21 points and 10 rebounds. MJ Ayaay produced 15 points and 10 boards, and Mike Nzeusseu delivered 14 markers and 11 boards.

Even the bench made their presence felt in the victory. With guard Jaycee Marcelino spearheading the supporting cast’s charge with 12 markers, the bench contributed a remarkable 56 points to their total output.

Photo by PBA Images

“Ano lang, cinontrol lang namin yung pace kasi yun naman talaga yung laro namin, yung mabilisan,” said the 24-year-old do-it-all forward, who also collected three steals.

“Kailangan talaga mabilisan para ma-execute namin yung mga ginagawa namin.”

This week will be a rough one for the Pirates, as they will play right away this Thursday against the AMA Online Education. And for Perez, he strongly believes that they will be able to carry over their momentum.

“Oo. Nandun pa. Energy talaga yung puhunan namin para makalaro ng maayos.”

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Basketball

Bonbon Batiller shows what he can bring to Letran in D-League debut

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Photo by PBA Images

Tuesday proved to be a double debut for Bonbon Batiller. Aside from beginning his first foray in the PBA D-League, it also marked his debut for the Letran Knights, who are carrying the Wang’s Basketball Couriers franchise.

And the 5-foot-11 guard showed what he can bring to the table. Batiller collected 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists to help the Knights raise the curtains of their campaign with a 93-75 rout of the Batangas-EAC Generals.

“Nagworkout yung pinagpraktisan namin,” said Batiller. “Nagbunga rin yung tinuro samin ni Coach Jeff (Napa) lalo sa depensa. Tsaka siguro sa rebounds — laking lamang namin sa rebound. Nagsipag mga bigs namin.”

But what has him even more satisfied is the warm reception and trust he’s had from the Knights, even if he has spent barely a year with them after transferring from University of the East last 2017.

“Masaya po kasi tinanggap nila ako sa Letran ng buong-buo,” said Batiller, who normed 10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals with UE in two years. “Tsaka yung tiwala nila na makakatulong ako sa team nandoon.

“Kaya masaya ako sa pinakita nila sa akin.”

That is why the General Santos native is hard-pressed to prove himself to Letran, saying that he’s all about giving back to the school that gave him another opportunity to resume his young, up-and-coming basketball career.

“Kailangan kong may mapatunayan na deserving ako sa binigay na second chance sa akin ni Letran,” said Batiller, who decided to switch schools partly due to academic reasons.

“Malaki ang utang ko sa Letran.”

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Football

Bienvenido Maranon scores brace as Ceres-Negros eliminates Brisbane Roar

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Photo from the-AFC.com

Philippine club football just achieved its biggest continental result yet

The inaugural Philippines Football League champions Ceres-Negros Football Club eliminated three-time Australian champions Brisbane Roar in the 2018 AFC Champions League’s second preliminary round with a 3-2 stunner, away at the QSAC Stadium in Brisbane.

With the win, the 2017 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Champions are set to face Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian next January 30, 2018 at the Haihe Educational Football Stadium in Tianjin, China, to book a seat in the group stages.

Brisbane were the favorites for this tie and it showed, as Ceres started the contest on the back foot. Italian striker Massimo Maccarone handed the home side the lead in the 35th minute when he turned in Brett Holman’s pass.

Maccarone’s goal could have lowered the Busmen’s moral, but Risto Vidakovic’s men took it as a motivation rather than a downer. In fact, Ceres replied in the best way possible when Bienvenido Maranon scored his first goal of the match two minutes from halftime, thanks to a scramble in the Brisbane box.

By all accounts, Ceres had already made Philippine football proud at halftime. By this stage last year, Brisbane had accrued a 4-0 halftime cushion against Global Cebu en route to a 6-0 rout.

Today, though, Brisbane faced tougher resistance at Ceres’ hands. That resistance turned into a full-fledged revolt in the 65th minute when Maranon directed the ball past a helpless Jamie Young to give the Busmen their first taste of the lead.

Maranon’s goal well and truly turned the tide in Ceres’ favor. Brisbane were stunned. The home side are the defending A-League champions, but are currently eighth in the table this season and would soon face elimination from Asia’s premier club competition.

Already up 2-1, the Busmen finally achieved some breathing room in the 75th minute when Omid Nazari scored from close range to give Ceres a two-goal cushion over Brisbane.

Nazari’s goal not only sealed the win for Ceres, it also propelled Philippine football into the big leagues. Not even a late goal from French midfielder Éric Bauthéac could prevent the Busmen’s victory.

After five minutes of stoppage time, Ceres emerged 3-2 winners against Brisbane Roar. Come what may against Tianjin seven days from now, the Busmen have already achieved Philippine football’s biggest result since their own achievement in last season’s AFC Cup.

Who knows? Maybe Ceres can pull off another upset?

Ceres-Negros XI: Doblas (GK), Super, Mike Ott, Ingreso, Maranon, Porteria, Schrock, De Murga (C), Munoz, Nazari, Christaens.

Brisbane Roar XI: Ingham, Bowles, Papadopoulos, Maccarone, Holman, Khalfallah, Oxborrow, McKay (C), Hingert, Young (GK), Franjic.

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EAC

CJ Perez, Zark’s-Lyceum vent ire on Batangas-EAC with 37-point romp

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Photo by PBA Images

CJ Perez and the Zark’s Burger-Lyceum Jawbreakers finally lived up to their hype, as they clobbered the Batangas-EAC Generals to score a 37-point beatdown, 112-75 for their first win, Tuesday at the Pasig Sports Center.

It was an all-out attack from the Jawbreakers, as they beat the Generals to the bite and took control of the game early, with Mike Nzeusseu and Jaycee Marcelino guiding their side to the 48-33 lead at halftime which they would never surrender.

Perez paced Zark’s Burger-Lyceum with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while MJ Ayaay tallied a double-double with his 15 markers, 10 boards, and three assists.

Cameroonian student-athlete Nzeusseu also delivered 14 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists. Marcelino had eight first half points and wound up with 12 off the bench, as the reserves chipped in 56 huge points in the tussle.

Coach Topex Robinson lauded the Jawbreakers for quickly adjusting to the style of the PBA D-League just days after falling to the Marinerong Pilipino, 92-94, back in opening day.

“Medyo adjusted na kami on everything — the calls and the teams were playing against with. But the things we want to mind are those things we control. We just have to keep on doing what we are doing. It’s more on replenishing na lang on our old ways,” he said.

Earvin Mendoza and Cedric de Joya both had 16 points for the Generals in the losing effort.

Zark’s-Lyceum look to continue to roll when they face the AMA Online Education Titans on Thursday, January 25. EAC-Batangas, on the other hand, take on the Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers on Monday, January 29.

The Scores:

Zark’s-Lyceum 112 — Perez 21, Ayaay 15, Nzeusseu 14, Jc. Marcelino 12, Serrano 10, Baltazar 8, Santos 8, Jv. Marcelino 6, Tansingco 6, Marata 4, Liwag 4, Ibañez 2, Cinco 2, Pretta 0.

Batangas-EAC 75 — E. Mendoza 16, De Joya 16, Tampoc 12, Laude 9, Pate 8, Maguliano 6, Altamirano 5, Diego 3, Garcia 0, Dela Peña 0, Martin 0, J. Mendoza 0, Neri 0.

Quarterscores: 19-14, 48-33, 84-47, 112-75.

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