The Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) Cardinals are 1-3 in the standings but could have gone 3-1 if not for the breaks in certain moments of those games.
After losing their opening day game against the San Beda College Red Lions, 102-89, the Cardinals were involved in three cardiac games against the San Sebastian Stags, the Perpetual Altas, and the Arellano Chiefs. In their win against the Stags, the Cardinals staged a huge late-game rally to upend San Sebastian 87-86. While in their next two games, the hosts lost both by an average margin of just 3.5 points, including an overtime thriller against the Chiefs.
Team captain and stopper Andretti Stevens, after their overtime game against the Cardinals, said that the breaks were not with them.“The breaks of the game were not with us. Lalamang kami sa game pero mahahabol din nila. Si Jiovanni [Jalalon] nag-takeover and we weren’t able to get the needed stops and calls,” he said.
Stevens, who already had four steals by the middle of the fourth quarter, was on the bench rooting for his team during the crucial moments. The reason he was on the bench was his knee. According to Stevens, he heard a pop that got him scared. “In the fourth quarter, when Nicholls got the ball, I was running towards him. Then, I heard a pop,” he recounted. “I got scared because I had two ACL’s na. I did not want to play na rin kasi it’s still a long season. Just for precaution.”
The super senior is averaging 2.50 steals per game, good for fifth in the league. When asked what he could have done he said that, “siguro we could have made a few stops against Jalalon.” Moreover, Michael Salado, who took over during the extra period, could have been stopped in a few possessions.
But for Stevens, they cannot dwell with the past and just have to move forward. “Frustrating,” talking about the last two losses “but the past is the past. We can’t do anything about it. We just have to improve on our mistakes during the games in practice.”
Moreover, as one of the “kuyas” of the team, Stevens has made it a responsibility to keep the morale of the team up. He preaches to the rookies and sophomores to not be frustrated with their minutes. “Si coach [Atoy Co] naghahanap pa rin ng magscoscore. Naghahanap pa rin siya sa bench naming, mga rookies and sophomores. Parang si JP Nieles, three games na di nagamit. Si JP kasi parang buddy and brother ko. Lagi kami magkasama. Sometimes, nadodown na siya. As a kuya, lagi ko sila pinupush. I remind them to, keep their heads up.”
Stevens, who is just playing an average of 16.4 minutes per game and a usage rate of 12.8%, added that he sets an example to his teammates every time he steps into the court. “Kasi ako I give my best every time I’m in the court. So sinasabi ko sa kanila ‘don’t relax’ pag nakakalaro sila. Kasi ayoko isipin nila na ‘nasa TV ako, I made it.’ Ang sinasabi ko sa kanila, just make an impact. Kahit walang na-iscore, rebounds, defending your man, okay na iyon.”
When asked about what the team needs to do in their next string of games, the Smart Elite ambassador told Tiebreaker Times that the team needs to huddle together. “As a team we just have to go back, huddle together, and improve on our mistakes,” he closed.
The Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals (1-3) will next face the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals tomorrow, July 24 at 12:00nn.