Colegio de San Juan de Letran is celebrating after 15 long years of waiting.
The Letran Squires have finally escaped their finals drought, and with it comes a chance to end their 22-year title drought. They eliminated the Mapua Red Robins with an 83-78 win last Monday in the NCAA Season 98 Juniors Basketball Final Four.
First-year Squires head coach Allen Ricardo knows that this is a chance to make history, just like the Letran team did in 2001, with RJ Jazul, Jay-R Reyes, and JC Intal. Even when things don’t go their way, or no matter how hard they prepare, the head tactician believes that when his players fall, they just need to pick themselves up and continue what they started.
“Well sinabi ko nga sa kanila the last championship ng Letran is the 2001 with JC Intal, Jay-R Reyes, RJ Jazul. So, it’s about time to make another history, so nandiyan na may piyesa na [kami],” he reiterated.
“So, sabi ko lang sa kanila, ‘Pag bumagsak kayo, bumangon lang kayo. Wala naman perfect game eh.’
“So kahit sobrang ganda na ng preparation mo, diba eh magkakaroon at magkakaroon ka ng turnover, mag mimintis at mag mimintis ka. Pero, ang importante is pano ka bumalik,” he continued.
The Squires are grateful for the advice given by the alumni, especially those from the 2001 championship team. They watched and supported the game of the Squires and gave advice to the team to help them in the coming finals.
After all, the seniors of the Letran Knights already defended the crown at the college level, and now it is the juniors’ time to shine.
“I’m thankful and grateful for that. Well, later nga, the Batch 2001, they will talk to the boys,” shared Ricardo.
“Minsan po pag nasa dorm po sila [nakakausap po], [Sinasabi nila sa amin] dapat tuloy po namin [‘yung panalo] kasi ‘yung mga kuya po namin nag champion,” said Jonathan Manalili, who was instrumental in the semis victory.
The Letran Squires are dedicated to their life coach, Coach Edward Santiago, who recently passed away due to cardiac arrest. The head tactician is grateful for what ‘Coach Bam; has contributed to the team and the life lessons he gave.
“Si Coach Edward ‘Bam’ Santiago is our life coach, so namatay siya due to heart attack, so malaki ‘yung na-contribute niya sa amin to build our character — not jut for the players, but also for the coaches. So ako talagang ine-emphasize ko ‘yun eh, ‘yung building character,” said Ricardo.
“Because one thing ‘yung preparation nandiyan eh, but importante ‘yung attitude. How are you going to face ‘yung mga everday challenges? pano mo ma-handle ‘yung ganon sitwasyon on and off the court.”
The Letran Squires now await who they will face in the Final.
It’s either their age-old rival San Beda-Rizal or their modern-day foes La Salle Green Hills.
Either way, it’s going to be a banger of a finals ahead.