Saint Benilde simply could not catch a break in the most crucial of times in the NCAA Season 95 Seniors Basketball Tournament.
After Jimboy Pasturan was ruled out of the season due to a dislocated shoulder, the Blazers had a nightmarish string of games, dropping six straight games.
From their once-immaculate 5-0 record, Benilde crumbled out of the top four, falling to a 6-8 slate.
“‘Pag minamalas ka sunud-sunod, wala kang magagawa,” lamented head coach TY Tang.
If that were not enough, Clement Leutcheu missed the last two games of the Blazers due to dengue-like symptoms. Ladis Lepalam was then ruled out of the season due to a broken right hand.
Then Monday evening, Justin Gutang had flu-like symptoms — less than 12 hours before their game versus the EAC Generals.
“When I went to the dugout, that’s the first thing he mentioned to me, that if it’s okay if he doesn’t play cause he’s down right now with a sore throat and flu,” Tang said.
But with the Generals figuring in a close game with the Blazers, Gutang could not help himself. The 22-year-old swingman wanted to be with his teammates to slug it out.
“It’s always a struggle and seeing your team, your brothers fight their hearts on the court. I can’t stay on the bench and watch, so I just wanted to hopefully give them some energy if I played in the court,” shared Gutang.
“Hopefully, they wake up and play as hard and intense as they usually do.”
With only adrenaline pushing him, Gutang dropped 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, and a steal to help Benilde snap their six-game skid, taking a 62-56 win. The victory kept the Blazers in the thick of the Final Four race.
“Right now we’re not worried about our record. We’re just worried about… Like what Coach said, getting better every day. We just have to handle business and take it one game at a time,” Gutang continued.
“And also what he said about getting back on track to the winning culture that we once were in the beginning of the round.”
Seeing Gutang risk his health for the Blazers, Tang hopes that it rubs off on the rest of his team during the final stretch of the tournament. They need all the resolve they can get if they want to make it to the next stage — or all the way to the final.