Every year, my Twitter feed would always be flooded by NCAA basketball tweets during June to October — from the elimination rounds, to the Final Four matches, up to the Finals. My college self would take over my present twenty-something self, and I wouldn’t care. It’s the most that I could do to show my support, how much I love my school and how much I’m proud that I bleed blue and red.
Some people would find it too much — you know, what I do, what we do or what NCAA does to us — but I actually thank NCAA for existing, because it’s the link that always pulls me back to my alma mater. My alma mater that raised and molded me to become the person I am today, my alma mater that equipped and readied me to face the corporate world that’s providing me my basic needs, wants and whatnot. That sounded pretty deeper (okay, I’m saying irrelevant if that’s what you think) than the actual point I’ve set for this post, but it’s truer than true. My heart is filled with so much joy that it’s how our Colegio instilled all these to each and every one of us, and even more now that I’m an alumnus, because it’s verified that the Deus, Patria, Letran way of life wouldn’t stop when one receives his/her diploma. What are giving 40 minutes of my time, spending PHP300 for each game ticket and cheering and shouting Arriba to uplift the spirits of my schoolmates compared to what the Colegio has done for my future? Five years in the working force and I don’t regret any single VL, half day and undertime that I filed for all those NCAA games.
What can I say? It was an awesome season! Probably one of the bests in my entire NCAA experience! I never doubted the Knights’ capabilities — with a colorful basketball championship history dating back from the 1950s, to a strong 7W-0L start this season, why would I? On the day of the first match, I knew it was going to be something. I have to admit though that when I first heard that Aldin Ayo is the new head coach of the Knights, I had to Google Search. But then as more games were being won (including the one against San Beda in the first round), his biceps started speaking for him. Ha, ha, ha. Gaaaahd Coach, gaaahd. There was not a Saturday in the whole season when I catch up on the games and never tweeted Coach Aldin with a heart emoji.
JRU, Perpetual and Mapua. Wow. These teams were so huge that though all our games against them during the first round were won, they gave us a hard time, threatened our Final Four slot even. JRU’s Paolo Pontejos was like a Mark Cruz of their own – smart, quick and can fire a lot of sure threes! Perpetual, on the other hand was a team of towers! Our undersized Knights having to deal with their big men was one of the struggles we had to face. And Mapua, they almost made us cry on our feet during that Final Four game! We almost didn’t make it to the finals had Ant Man failed to shoot that free throw shot.
Oh how sweet it was when I knew we were back at the Finals! With our team captain ironically the smallest man in the league, our undersized big men in comparison to the other teams’ and our rookie head coach who was not known to anyone, it was indeed one hell of a journey! I can truly say that the Finals slot was very well-deserved and it’s more than exciting because not only we were back, it was going to be another rivalry championship series as well! To savor the moment more, I dedicated my whole Saturday to re-watch all the three games via ABS-CBN Sports.
The until almost-sunrise shoot I had a week before the Finals was a blessing in disguise as I was able to file an offset (I’m still not entitled to any leaves due to my recent life decision) for Game 1. I went with Jim, the LOML Ian and my forever fellow die-hard Glenn! Glenn and I take pride on not missing any important game ever since we became Letranites and we have no plans of stopping. Haha!
I made sure to be alert most especially in terms of the calls, because I never wanted what happened in 2012 and 2013 to happen again, when everything that the Knights have worked hard for were put into waste. Letting our hearts break once more would be too much.
We won that game but allow me to mention some instances during the third quarter that until now I don’t understand:
- Bong Quinto was called for an unsportsmanslike foul against Dan Sara because? Please enlighten me.
- Ola Aldeogun was the one who headed to the free throw line when in fact he was the one who slammed John Calvo’s face. Why? Even Anton Roxas and Olsen Racela weren’t able to explain it in their comments.
We were ahead by 6 points then, by the way.
I’ve read that Caloy Garcia said that whoever wins Game 1 will have a better chance of getting the championship title, and I was very happy that we won the first game! Of course I didn’t want to rely on that alone because you’ll never really know until it’s over.
I tried my best to come up with a story so I can watch the game live again, and the bosses allowed me to but it was a busy day. I didn’t want to push it too hard because I’m still just in my first month with the new company so okay, bye. I wore navy blue from head to toe to show my support in case I won’t make it, and true enough I didn’t. I watched the game on TV with my office mates and as much as I wanted the team to end it that day, it was breaking my heart that I would not be seeing and feeling it in flesh had we won Game 2.
My college friends and I still met up at MOA after the game, and I didn’t feel like I miss anything! :)
Surprisingly for Game 2, even though the series got tied to 1-1, the officiating wasn’t bad. I mean, there were no calls that should have been and shouldn’t have been made. Re-watching the game, it seemed like it was not yet the time. Because I wasn’t there. Ha, ha.
I made sure I will be at the Arena on this deciding game. Everything worked out really fine, I had the green light to go by 3PM, but something suddenly came up at work and I swear I was about to cry when it was starting to sink in that I wouldn’t be able to go again. But no, nothing could get in between me and the game so I told my senior that I was willing to finish the task and if in one hour I was able to get it done, could she please let me go. I did it as fast as I could and thank God, I was able to go. Ian and I literally ran the streets — Shaw Boulevard to the MRT Station, and EDSA Extension in Pasay. In less than an hour, we reached the Arena and made it just in time for the fourth quarter. Oh, the things I do for Letran Basketball!
So we went in the stadium and the first thing that I saw was the wounded Rey Publico (and when I say wounded, I mean with blood dripping from his left brow). What I didn’t understand and I would like to, is that, how come there was no call for that one? How? Why??! What’s even making me more uneasy is that Mark Cruz was called for an unsportsmanlike foul instead, plus a ball possession. What the fuck? How did that happen??
Again, this was all because of the 2012 and 2013 dejavus, and we didn’t want another repeat of all of that, for the third time.
Despite all of these, our beloved Knights rose above anyone else in the court after the final buzzer rang during the overtime period and I couldn’t explain how I was feeling! We just won the Championship, our 17th Championship!!
I honestly don’t like seeing and hearing the phrase “ten-year title drought”, because I feel like it’s saying that the basketball team during the last decade didn’t achieve anything at all. But that’s just my opinion. The truth hurts, they say. Now the crown is back with us, and it’s the sweetest thing, because it was fought for with nobility, patience and heart — for ten years.
Thanksgiving Celebration and Bonfire
We instantly headed to Letran, and everyone was all smiles. We were even waving at each other while on the way, even if we don’t know them and they don’t know us!
The feeling was surreal, for we were home! Game 3 was playing on the big screen and everyone was still cheering as if we’re still inside the Arena. It was all fun! Our heroes came and everyone was screaming! The Knights were the stars of the night, and they’re the reason why we’re celebrating. So much love for the boys!!
A mass and a short program was held, and a simple celebration followed after.
And now we’ve finally come to this point.
Yes, it’s true that some San Beda cheering paraphernalia were burned during the bonfire celebration. That Kevin Racal said something foul about Ola Aldeogun on Facebook. These both sparked a lot of conversations online and to be honest, it’s funny. Man, this is NCAA. This is a rivalry championship game. We all know how high emotions are when Letran and San Beda face each other (be it in the elimination rounds or Final Four), do not pretend that you don’t. And this is Finals. Finals for the third time in five years. This isn’t new, this isn’t something that happened for the first time. No Letran-San Beda match concludes without a brawl. In Game 1, a San Beda alumnus provoked Kevin Racal while inbounding the ball during the last seconds of the game. In Game 2, another San Beda alumnus did it again with Mark Cruz. And it’s not just happened this season, all these brawls have been happening since the 1950s. I have experienced a lot of similar instances when we were the ones in college — I actually experienced being hit by a bottle of mineral water and I couldn’t do anything, because that’s how it is. Not to say that just because it’s how the culture is, it already means that it’s right. But again it’s the culture, the culture has always been like this. All I’m saying is that, I hope they are not sparing their selves from these kinds of acts, that suddenly they’re playing victims as if they never did something like these because one way or another, we all have been guilty. It’s not about who did this and that first, who provoked, who revenged, the point is, no one is innocent. Because again, this is the culture. I cannot stress this enough — this is NCAA. This is the league that gave us all the awards that we boast for. And it wouldn’t be as fun and as exciting if not for the culture.
Wag kayong pabebe, hindi kayo inosente.
By the way, as of this writing, I have not heard a single comment from any of the NCAA officials regarding the bonfire celebration. Probably because.. it’s how the culture is.
Again, congratulations to the Letran Knights for bagging the 17th Championship with so much nobility, patience and passion. No one else are more deserving than you all are! Above all, congratulations to Coach Aldin Ayo, you believed you could so you did! We are so, so glad that you are our Head Coach!