SAN Juan was without a vital piece on Tuesday when head coach Randy Alcantara was hospitalized just hours before the all-important Game Three of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Datu Cup National Finals.
Alcantara was on his way to the Filoil Flying V Centre when his blood pressure shot up, forcing him to miss the crucial tiff.
"Tumaas yung blood pressure niya. Nagda-drive siya, nasa SM Sta. Mesa na siya nung nagpasundo siya kasi nag-black out na siya. Sobrang taas na ng BP niya kaya na-confine siya sa Cardinal Santos (Medical Center)," shared deputy coach Yong Garcia.
Without Alcantara, the Knights played inspired basketball and pulled off the thrilling 67-62 triumph to move a win away from claiming the MPBL title.
"Nung naisip namin na wala si coach Randy, ginawa namin siya na inspirasyon. Ginawa namin ito para mabuo ang team namin," said Jhonard Clarito, who stepped up with his 12 points, 18 rebounds, three steals, two assists, and two blocks.
Garcia could only smile seeing the all-out effort from San Juan, which got solid games not only from leaders John Wilson, Mac Cardona, and Larry Rodriguez, but also from unheralded guys like Clarito, Orlan Wamar, and Lester Reyes.
"Ang lagi naman naming sinasabi sa team, it's not about Mac Cardona, John Wilson, or Larry Rodriguez. Nandyan lang sila and expected na yung defense ng Davao sa kanila naka-focus. So may-chance sila na ma-stop, pero yung second group should step up and gawin yung role nila. Masaya lang ako na nag-respond sila," he said.
Not only did the Knights take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-three championship series, but it also protected homecourt and gained a chance to celebrate at home if they emerge triumphant anew for Game Four, slated on Monday.
And for Garcia, there's no better way for San Juan to welcome back Alcantara, whose condition has already stabilized, than snaring the title at home.
"Sinasabi namin sa kanila palagi na kailangan dito pa lang, tapusin na natin. Nag-focus tayo sa Game Three at sa preparation natin sa Game Four para di na tayo bumalik sa Davao kasi iba rin ang suporta sa team nila doon," he said.