With just a minute left in the NU Lady Bulldogs’ rout of the UST Growling Tigresses, Christiana Dimaunahan made a triple.
The game was already out of reach. Dimaunahan’s triple only extended an already-insurmountable lead. The bucket had no repercussions on the outcome.
Still, it was special for Dimaunahan and the Lady Bulldogs.
Last March 7 — just six months before the UAAP Season 82 Women’s Basketball tournament raised its curtains — Dimaunahan, who was at the tail-end of her residency year, completely tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
Everything she worked hard for came crashing down.
“Doc [Raul] Canlas declared that it would take eight months for me to play again. Honestly, when I got injured, I thought I won’t be able to come back anymore,” the 19-year-old recalled.
The young guard did not waste time in her recovery, working day in and day out with coaches like Rass Urag, Fro Labrador, and Daniel Olan.
A week before the season, NU head coach Patrick Aquino released his lineup. And it included Dimaunahan.
“It was a confusing mix of emotions.
“On one hand, it felt like a dream come true. On the other, I thought about the deduction from my playing years,” she shared.
“Although Coach Fro’s program for me was advanced to begin with, I still went through each session thinking about battling for a spot in the lineup next season. It wasn’t on our minds to catch up for this one. When I was told I’d be lined up, I asked, ‘Hindi po ba masasayang playing year ko?’ But Coach Fro told me that by the looks of my progress, it was possible for me to make it to the second round. With that, I exerted even more effort in therapy. My initial fear of getting injured again and my worry of wasting a playing year were replaced by eagerness, drive, and hunger,” she continued.
In NU’s first three games of the tournament — all of which the Lady Bulldogs won handily — Dimaunahan was in uniform but was not fielded. Her dad and assistant coach Aris Dimaunahan was hesitant to see his daughter on the court this early.
And so when Aris joined Blackwater in Macau for The Terrific 12, Aquino and Christiana hatched a plan.
While NU held a 30-plus point lead against UST, Aquino looked at Christiana, who immediately responded.
“I wanted it so much, I guess. I tried to cover up the shame I was feeling, just standing there in one spot,” Dimaunahan said, since she was the designated spot-up shooter. “I even made it to the other half of the court because I dared to defend, but everyone kept yelling at me to jog back to the corner. I was pretty much laughing the entire time.
“I was just ecstatic to be inside the court. Everything didn’t feel real. Things only materialized when I heard the words I’ve always dreamt of hearing: ‘Christiana Dimaunahan, three points!'”
After making her first-ever UAAP bucket at the expense of her former school, Dimaunahan was immediately pulled back to the bench.
“They cheered for me like I was in a championship game and the stakes were in my hands. All it was was a moment of pure bliss and excitement. I was just really, really, really happy. It made me want more.”
Though the process of her recovery is only about to enter its final stage, that moment hastened it. After months of doubting whether she would be able to play the game she loves again, that one minute rekindled Dimaunahan’s passion.
“All that’s on my mind right now is, ‘I will conquer ACL like it’s an itch. I will be back. I will play this season. I will prove myself. I will give back to my team. I will make my family proud.'”
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