NCAA: Neil Guarino steps up to end Letran’s dismal start
MANILA, Philippines—Letran faced the tough challenge of getting its first win in the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament without its star guard Kurt Reyson.
Fortunately for the Knights, Neil Guarino stepped up when it mattered most to give the defending champions a resounding 86-71 win over San Sebastian at San Juan Arena on Wednesday.
Confidence was key for Guarino as he finished with 13 points and three assists built on four made buckets from beyond the arc.
“I just had confidence because there’s no one else left to rely on. We didn’t have our captain ball, (Pao) Javillonar is not in good shape so I was next in line so I just took on the challenge and responsibility as a veteran,” said the 23-year-old forward in Filipino.
He didn’t take all the slices of the cake, though, as he also lauded his fellow Knights in the lopsided team win.
The collective effort was, according to him, the right response after starting the season winless after seven games.
WATCH: Neil Guarino after helping the Knights get their first win of the season against the Golden Stags.He finished with 13 points. #NCAASeason99 | via Melo Fuertes/Inquirer Sports
Posted by Inquirer Sports on Wednesday, October 18, 2023
“I give credits to my teammates because they’re the ones who give me the opportunity to score. If they weren’t there, I wouldn’t be able to shoot them. Our seven consecutive losses really hurt, our morale was so low but our coaches didn’t give up on us.”
“We didn’t give up on them, either.”
Helping Guarino on the offensive end was Deo Cuajao, who finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Kobe Monje also stepped up for 13 markers.
With the uncertainty of Reyson’s return to the lineup due to a groin injury, Guarino said he’s ready to do what he did on Wednesday to give the four-peat-hungry Knights more wins on the board.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, to show and prove our doubters wrong so I’m ready for whatever game.”
The Knights look to end their first round on a positive note on Sunday when they go on a Season 98 Finals rematch against College of St. Benilde.