Larry Muyang made his return to the Filoil Flying V Centre on Friday evening.
But unlike 10 months ago, he was no longer wearing the blue and red of the San Juan Knights.
After the NCAA Season 95 Seniors Basketball Tournament had ended, the 6-foot-5 behemoth opted to join his hometown team Pampanga-ADG Group Giant Lanterns.
But as fate would have it, Pampanga and San Juan would cross paths in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan North semifinals. Muyang had to face the music.
“Kala ko nga i-booboo ako — buti na lang hindi nangyari yun,” quipped the 24-year-old.
“Ramdam ko pa rin ‘yung pagmamahal ng mga taga-San Juan sa akin.”
During the pre-game, Muyang did not share any pleasantries with his former teammates.
The incoming Letran super senior was dead set on beating the defending champions.
“Wala naman silang sinabi sa akin. Sobrang focused ko kasi sa laro kanina na hindi ko na sila nakamayan. Masyadong focused talaga ako kanina,” shared Muyang.
“Sa akin, very special kasi ito dahil defending champion sila eh — kasama din ako roon. Gustong gusto ko sila talunin sa homecourt ko dati.”
He then took to the court as a man on a mission.
Down by 11 points, 69-80, midway through the final frame of Game One, Muyang anchored Pampanga’s defense. The Giant Lanterns then went on a blistering 15-4 spurt to tie the game with 17 seconds left.
A heartbreak would take place, though, as Mike Ayonayon would sink a buzzer-beating floater to give the Knights an 86-84 victory to draw first blood.
“Ibang klase ‘yung game. Hindi namin naisip na magiging ganun ‘yung kahihinatnan ng game,” expressed Muyang, who had 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field, alongside 11 rebounds and two steals.
“Pero napatunayan namin na kakayanin namin sila sa Game Two.”
Come Game Two on Wednesday, March 4 at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila, Muyang and the Giant Lanterns are more than ready to get one back.
“Kung hindi makalaro si Kuya Larry [Rodriguez], siguro mas kakayanin pa namin sila. Basta kailangan maging mentally strong pa rin kami kesa sa kanila sa Game Two.”
In the earlier semifinals match-up, Manila-Frontrow survived Makati-Super Crunch, 77-74, to take Game One.