Back in September 6, 2018, Jerrick Balanza went under the knife because of a tumor found in his brain.
While on the recovery bed, he had a vision — that he would end his Letran run with gold hanging around his neck.
People might say he was still hallucinating from the painkillers still in his system. But for him, it was the reality that he wanted to happen.
Four-hundred, thirty-nine days later, Balanza’s vision became reality.
“Sa amin talaga ito. Simula pa lang pagbalik ko, na-envision ko na pagbalik ko, magcha-champion kami dahil ‘yun ang pinakamagandang plano ni God sa akin at sa team,” said the 23-year-old after Letran’s 81-79 win over San Beda, which resulted in his second NCAA championship.
“Ngayon, nangyari na.”
After taking Game One by a hairline, 65-64, the Knights suffered a 76-79 loss to their arch-rivals to send the series to a winner-take-all bout. And San Beda was the heavy-favorites entering it because of their big-game experience.
But Balanza knew deep in his heart that everyone on his team is a fighter.
“After ng Game Two, ‘yung iba sobrang down. Akala nila ‘di na kami mananalo sa Game Three,” said the Letran captain.
“Pero ako, as captain, kailangan ko silang dalhin para maglaro kami sa Game Three. At sinimulan namin sa ensayo na parang kami na ‘yung champion.”
Balanza was on fire all game long. And when San Beda sliced their once-12 point lead down to just one, 70-71, with 4:52 left, he made sure there would be no heartbreak this time.
The 6-foot-2 swingman fired a booming triple that stopped the Knights’ bleeding.
Still, the Red Lions kept charging, cutting the lead to two with 5.4 seconds left. Again, Balanza was not to be denied, swatting Evan Nelle’s triple attempt to seal the deal.
Maybe it was luck. But for him, it was divine intervention.
“Isa lang: Sobrang bait ni God,” said Balanza, who capped his Letran run with 27 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
“Ito ‘yung ginawang way ni God para mapasalamatan ko sila.”
During his time of need a year ago, Letran never left him. And this was his way of giving back to them — winning the school’s second crown in five years.
And all he can say was: “Sobrang sarap maging Letranista talaga. Walang katulad. Babalik-balikan ko talaga.”