NCAA: Letran breakthrough win could be ‘turning point’ of season
MANILA, Philippines—It took them eight games but the Letran Knights finally notched their first win in the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament at the expense of San Sebastian on Wednesday.
And coach Rensy Bajar feels the victory will serve as the Knights’ “turning point” of the season.
“I think so. I’m positive about it. We enjoyed this game and tomorrow, we’ll prepare right away for St. Benilde but I’m positive that this is our turning point for this season,” said Bajar after their 86-71 win over the Stags at San Juan Arena.
“We are just taking it one step at a time and I’m hoping that our experience gets solidified. Hopefully, this is the one [win] that gives us strength and enjoyment in these coming games.”
Despite the win, Bajar acknowledged there’s still a ton of work to be done for the Knights, who will have to go on an improbable run to pull off a four-peat this season.
One department that Letran must focus on is limiting its turnovers. The Knights turned the ball over 34 times against the Stags, who only had 13 miscues.
“[There’s a] lack of maturity in the guard position because that’s what was lost to us last year. This is like the first time they’re getting the experiences so hopefully, they learn from it.”
“That’s what I always emphasize. We need to play as a team and execute, especially on our offense.”
Of course, it didn’t help the Knights that their star guard and captain Kurt Reyson sat out Wednesday due to a groin injury. Neil Guarino stepped up with 13 points in the win.
While the win against the Stags took the monkey off the Knights’ back, the path doesn’t get easier for the defending champions.
For starters, Bajar revealed Reyson is questionable to play on Sunday in a pivotal game against Season 98 Finals rival, College of St. Benilde.
“Maybe we’ll rest him if he really can’t play. At least, our other players have momentum. Of course, we won’t force him to play if he can’t because the injury might worsen.”
Reyson, who’s been entrusted to lead the Knights this season following the departure of last season’s core featuring Fran Yu, Brent Paraiso, Tommy Olivario, King Caralipio and Louie Sangalang, is currently the team’s top scorer averaging 15.4 points a game.
With Letran pretty much in survival mode, Bajar wants his wards to loosen up and shake off the pressure.
“That’s my favor with them. Just enjoy the game and don’t be pressured. If there’s anyone who needs to be pressured here, it’s me.