At the end of the first round, L-Jay Gonzales has yet to fully recover from the ankle injury that forced him to miss their first game of UAAP Season 84 against University of Santo Tomas.
Despite not being in the pink of health, the 23-year-old playmaker still led the Tamaraws’ charge in their game against University of the Philippines on Saturday evening.
However, the Maroons proved the steadier team down the stretch, as FEU suffered a tough 83-76 loss. The native of San Mateo, Isabela finished with a team-high 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and a steal in close to 26:30 minutes of action.
“Satingin ko ‘di pa ako 100-percent kasi parang kumikirot pa konti ‘yung ankle ko. Sumasakit.”
After closing the first round with a 3-4 record, Gonzales knows that they still have many things to work on. In particular, they have to sustain their performance in late-game situations moving forward.
“Kinapos kami sa defense. ‘Nung last seconds doon kami nadadali, ‘dun kami bumibitaw,” he opined.
“Yung sinasabi nila Coach Olsen [Racela], one game at a time. Yung depensa ‘yung magpapanalo sa’min, di ‘yung opensa. Execute namin ‘yung play, gawin namin ‘yung tama – kung ano ‘yung mga sasabihin ng mga coaches, gagawin lang namin.”
Indeed, the Tamaraws’ defensive efforts were not enough. They couldn’t stop Ricci Rivero, Joel Cagulangan, and Carl Tamayo from making crucial plays late in the game. Still, Gonzales believes that it will take a collective effort in order for them to perform better and hopefully grab more wins as their season progresses.
“Kailangan namin magtulong-tulongan sa team at kung ano ‘yung kulang namin, ‘yun yung tratrabahuhin namin. ‘Di lang as an individual but as a team rin. Siguro ‘yun yung makikita niyo sa second round.”
After an up and down campaign in the first round, Gonzales claimed that their previous losses are just going to fuel them to have a better run come the second half of the season. He also added that he wanted to repay the hard work that the FEU coaching staff has been putting in for each of their games thus far.
“Siguro ‘yung motivation namin ‘yung mga pagkatalo namin nung first round.
“Yung mga coaches, ‘yun din ‘yung motivation namin. Kasi nakikita namin sila na nahihirapan din sila tuwing scouting, nakikita namin sila anong oras na silang natutulog. Yun ‘yung dapat namin gawin at ‘yun ‘yung dapat namin i-motivate sa sarili namin,” he vowed.