JEROME Santos wouldn't deny it: he looks up to the likes of Ateneo swingman Thirdy Ravena.
"Idol namin yan si Thirdy," the rookie forward shared.
That awe, it turns out, would cost Centro Escolar University Game One in humiliating fashion, 101-66 last week.
But they settled down for Game Two, and Santos was the difference maker with 28 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in CEU's gutsy 77-74 victory to tie the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
"Kailangan lang makipaglaban sa rebounds. Sabi ng coaches namin na box out lang lagi sa rebounds. Yun lang," he said, with the Scorpions winning the rebounding battle, 46 to 36.
And that could only bring Pumaren pride as his boys prove that although depleted, CEU is no pushover.
"You have to hand it to these boys, they're fighting," he said. "The only thing I was telling the boys was more of motivation, that they believe in themselves, that they can be in the same league as Ateneo. I wanna see the fight, the competitiveness and we showed it. We're able to keep our poise, and we're able to snatch and steal the game from Ateneo."
"I'm telling them, you must be good to be here. Hindi tsamba eh. We're playing with seven guys in an eight-man lineup but we're still standing. You just got to believe that we can do it," he said.
Winning one game is one thing. Winning the championship, though, is another beast in its own.
That's why Pumaren expects a tougher fight from Cignal-Ateneo - one which CEU must prepare itself for with Game Three slated on Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
"Sana tapos na eh, no? I'm sure that Ateneo will be back. I'm sure that they will be more aggressive, they want to jump on us, so we just have to be ready for them," he said.
Pumaren's fingers crossed, Santos and company will be there to shoot for another upset.
"The series is not yet over. Hindi dapat na maging masaya kami with just one win. We want to give them a championship series," he said. with reports from Andrew Mencias