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Knights fight on for Jerrick Balanza

When one Knight falls, every Knight rises

The past few days have been trying for the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights. One of their Knights, Jerrick Balanza, is currently sidelined due to a brain tumor.

If it was devastating to the Letran and NCAA community, what more for Ballanza’s brothers-in-arms.

One of the first to know was none other than team captain Bong Quinto.

“Sabi ni Jerrick, ‘Bong, usap tayo, wala akong makausap’. Ako naman, ‘di ko alam sasabihin ko kasi kahit anong sabihin ko na positive, ano talaga, sabi ko nalang dasal ka na lang,” recalled Quinto, a graduating senior.

“Sinabi ko nalang sa kanya na kailangan makatulog ka Jerrick. Paggising mo ng umaga sasabihin ko lahat yan kay coach Jeff [Napa]. So yun nga, nalaman ni coach Jeff. Naiyak si coach Jeff.”

“‘Di naman nawala si Jerrick sa team,” an emotional Napa added.

“He’s still part of the team.”

Quinto, as the team’s captain ball, took it upon himself to encourage Balanza throughout this ordeal. He made sure to remind him that Balanza, a father of two, should be the rock of his family despite his condition.

“Sabi ko sa kanya na huwag niyang ipakita sa asawa niya at sa mga anak niya na nanghihina siya. Siyempre ikaw pinaghuhugutan nila ng lakas.

“Kami ni coach Jeff ‘di naman kami nagkulang sa pag-encourage sa kanya. Lagi siyang nandun sa practice kahit hindi na siya nagpra-practice. Sabi ko sa kanya, kahit anong mangyari, huwag niya isipin ang team namin. Ang isipin niya sarrili niya. Kung kailangan niya kami, nandito kami para sa kanya,” added Quinto.

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Letran’s first game in the second round of the NCAA Juniors and Seniors Basketball tournament came exactly on Balanza’s 22nd birthday.

Early in the day, the Squires were able to pick up a 80-74 win – a win they dedicated to the former Squire.

“Yun ang isa sa inspiration namin, yung nangyari kay Jerrick. Talagang pinupush ng mga bata na lumaban para sa Letran dahil sa nangyari kay Jerrick,” shared Squires head coach Raymond Valenzona.

Then, it was the seniors’ turn.

“Mabigat yung pagpasok nung second round dahil wala si Jerrick pero ang importante dito yung kalusugan niya. Hindi na namin iniisip na wala siya sa court eh,” reflected Quinto.

Quinto and the rest of the Knights played inspired basketball against the Chiefs, routing them 99-82.

And it was all for Jerrick.

Balanza is set to go under the knife tomorrow. But he won’t be alone, as he has the entire community behind him.

For their part, the Knights will continue to fight for Jerrick.

“Right now naka-admit na siya. Hindi ko nga alam kung saang posisyon nanood ang loko na yun,” quipped Napa. “Naka-monitor naman yun e, nagre-request birthday niya kasi na dedicate sa kanya ‘to. Yun naman ang gagawin namin sa kanya e.

“At least dagdag motivation din sa amin para magtrabaho lalo.”

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