After a first round that saw the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights almost sweep all its games with an 8-1 slate, the Muralla Street cagers have struggled in the second round with a 4-4 record, losing three of their last four outings.
Last Tuesday, Letran lost another hard-fought game against bitter rivals, the San Beda College Red Lions. After the game, a few members of the press caught up with the upstart coach to discuss the game.
However, instead of starting with a discussion about the game. Ayo wanted to clear a detail about his hiring as head coach and team manager Manny Pacquaio.
“First off, let me clear this off. Manny Pacquiao has nothing to do with my appointment,” Ayo opened. The rookie coach wanted to make things clear due to a misinformed article at Interaksyon about Letran and the boxing champion. “Di tulad na sinabi sa Interaksyon na nung pumasok si boss Manny sa Letran tsaka lang pinasok yung coaching staff niya. Di totoo yan. Yung mga pari ang nagdecide and Manny Pacquiao has nothing to do with it.”
He then praised the administration of the school for giving him the free hand to handle the entire basketball program of Letran. “Yung mga pari namin are very professional and they know what to do. Hindi nga sila nagiintervene sa akin e. The whole basketball program, college, high school, and even the elementary, sa akin yun. They don’t intervene. Lahat ng mga decision-making, wala silang sinasabi. Although I seek for their approval pero lahat ng decision sa akin so walang mga outside, kung sino-sinong tao to influence,” he disclosed.
Ayo then reflected about the heated game. The Letran mentor was more than proud of the valiant effort displayed by the Knights in the fourth quarter that almost saw the team hijack the game. “I’m very proud of my boys especially kanina. We were down 18 points and we were down 12 points coming into the fourth quarter pero that’s just us. We never give up,” he said proudly. The effort on defense resulted the Knights’ defense forcing 33 turnovers that led to 29 turnover points.
However, just like in their last four games, the slow starts got the better of the team. Moreover, the Knights, a team that is excellent from the charity stripe, shot just 44% during that game. “Nakuha namin mga gusto naming tira, hindi lang pumapasok. We had a bad start, especially our free throws,” he reflected.
In a light moment with Coach Ayo, when asked about the officiating of the game, he had no comment about it since it would be unfair. “Again, with officiating, I want to be fair with them. Ayoko magsabi ng masama kasi unfair sa kanila yun.” He then jokingly said that, “pero ayoko din magsabi ng maganda kasi that would be unfair as well for us.”
With the loss, the Letran Knights will enter the final playdate of the elimination round with a chance to either clinch a twice-to-beat advantage and eliminate the Perpetual Altas or drown into a tie for a playoff with the other squads that will tally a 12-6 slate. With the stakes that high, Ayo vows that he and his Knights will go all-out against Aric del Rosario and the Altas. “I told the boys, look-ahead. What do you need to do? Pipigain talaga namin. We’ll give everything that we’ve got,” he vowed to the Letran faithul.
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