Depleted but overachieving, Hapee out to defy odds
Tell coach Ronnie Magsanoc a month ago that the Hapee team he currently mentors in the Foundation Cup could still make it to the semifinals and you would’ve been met by a blank stare.
The soft-spoken coach would be the first to tell you that midway the eliminations, all hope seems to have been lost on the Fresh Fighters’ bid for a second crown in the D-League.
“I thought we’re already out a month and a half ago,” he said.
But when everything looked bleak, a miracle in the form of the San Beda players answered Magsanoc’s prayers for Hapee.
“Nabiyayaan kami ng pagbabalik ng Red Lions sa tulong ng management at sa kagandahang-loob ni coach Jamike (Jarin),” he said.
(We got blessed with the return of the Red Lions with the help of our management and because of coach Jamike Jarin.)
A four-game winning streak followed, allowing Hapee to snatch the fourth-seed and outlasting Jumbo Plastic in the quarterfinals to set a date with Cebuana Lhuillier in the semis.
“The players made a run,” Magsanoc continued. “To make it to the playoffs, I’m already thankful. But to make it to the semis with what we faced, it’s a blessing. And you have to give it to the boys for working hard and trying to find ways to win.”
Crediting his players for their valiant effort to make it this far despite all the hardships, Magsanoc was beaming with pride with the way the Fresh Fighters have fought this conference.
“All I am praying for is to make it to the playoffs. Honestly, this is an overachievement. But maybe, everything happens for a reason,” he said, as he thanked the people who helped the Fresh Fighters get this far, especially the San Beda and Gilas coaches. “More than us, it’s about the people who helped us and the players doing what was needed for them to overcome the obstacles and challenges.”
Now comes the hard part for Hapee, without key players Scottie Thompson, Baser Amer, and Troy Rosario, facing the hungry Cebuana squad in a best-of-3 semifinals series.
But Magsanoc is still positive as ever.
“Whatever happens, I’m thankful because the San Beda players were able to return and we were able to help the other players.”
“Sometimes, things are not meant to be, like our first loss in the quarterfinals. But probably, that happened because we needed to be better, we needed to be tougher, and we needed to be humble,” said the Point Laureate.
“When it comes to the Final Four, hopefully anything can happen. We’re happy to be here in the semis and hopefully, we could give them a good series and still be competitive,” Magsanoc said. “Let’s see.” CFC