Like every Letranite last Tuesday, University of Santo Tomas coaches Aldin Ayo and McJour Luib were on the edge of their seats watching the epic Game Three encounter between the Knights and the San Beda Red Lions.
Though they badly wanted to be at the SM Mall of Asia Arena and watch the game, they had a battle to fight at the same venue 24 hours after the game. For him, it would be an injustice for them to take a break, especially with the tall task of facing Ateneo the very next day.
“Of course, nami-miss namin, pero katulad ng regular na empleyado, may gusto kang gawin pero may trabaho ka eh,” said Ayo, a true blue Letranite.
“Of course, we miss our Alma Mater, pero nandito kami sa trabaho na masaya. Grabe ‘yung suporta ng UST namin.”
Letran eventually toppled San Beda, 81-79, to stop San Beda’s bid for a four-peat. It was similar to the achievement of Ayo and the Knights four years ago.
Back in 2015, a then-unknown Ayo steered the Knights to the Season 91 crown, foiling the Red Lions’ dream of winning five straight titles.
It was a feat that will forever live in Letran’s lore.
Throughout the run of UST and Letran in their respective tournaments, the institutions proudly flaunted their bromance on social media, exchanging messages of good luck every way they could.
However, only one Dominican school came out on top. UST could not overcome Ateneo last Wednesday, falling short of their own crown.
Safe to say, it was a bittersweet two days for Ayo.
“We are grateful sa suporta.
“Although, gusto naming sumuporta, gusto naming manood, may trabaho eh. Especially magkadikit lang. ‘Yung preparation at routine namin masisira. Pero in terms of support, Letranista tayo eh. Ganun din naman,” said Ayo.
The UST coach was particularly proud since the three remnants of the 2015 team were able to win their second crown — namely Jerrick Balanza, Christian Balagasay, and Tommy Oliverio.
But as Ayo has always preached, basketball is not the be-all and end-all of a student-athlete’s life. That is why like their upperclassmen Mark Cruz, Kevin Racal, Bong Quinto, JP Calvo, Rey Nambatac, and Luib, he wants all of them to finish their respective degrees to be a real champion.
“Congratulations especially to Jerrick. Alam naman natin ang pinagdaanan ng batang ‘yun,” said Ayo, since Balanza is just a year removed from brain tumor surgery. “Pero sasabihin ko ulit — Jerrick won two championships already pero ang main objective namin is for him to have a degree. They have to finish their courses. Ngayon, sa 2015 na team namin, si Jerrick, si Tommy, at si Christian na lang hinihintay namin.
“Sana matapos na nila. Dun mo masasabi na champion ka na sa basketball at champion ka na sa academics. Magandang accomplishment ‘yan.”