COLLEGE basketball isn’t even being discussed now, as Jacob Lao soaks up the championship experience after helping lead La Salle Greenhills to its very first title in the NCAA juniors basketball.
The 17-year-old Lao, who has been with LSGH since kindergarten, ends his juniors career on a high as the Greenies became champions for the first time in 59 years.
“Happy kasi as graduating player, nakuha namin ‘yung goal namin na mag-champion,” said Lao, who also started out in basketball in a camp in La Salle Greenhills. ”Sa akin lang, gusto ko lang manalo. I did what I can para makatulong sa team.”
In his final game with the Greenies, Lao had eight points, including a crucial three-point play late in the game to help LSGH to a 75-74 win over Mapua in Game Three.
“Happy kasi nagawa ko ‘yung kailangan kong gawin. Parang lahat na ng support, binigay na sa amin mula sa mga teachers, families, and coaching staff para mag-give back sa La Salle community,” said the 5-foot-7 Lao, who played for two seasons with LSGH after playing for the school’s Passerelle squad.
LSGH assistant coach Anton Brodette lauded Lao for his part in LSGH’s title run, highlighted by an 11-point game in the semifinals against San Beda.
“At first talaga, when you see him, he is short. Pero ‘yung heart ng bata, madiin. The shots he made, he is a big part kung saan kami nakarating. Everybody is. Pero malaki ‘yung puso ng bata. Feel ko rin, he has to get stronger pero mataas ‘yung IQ niya,” said Brodette.
Lao said the team went on a different mode in the playoffs, surviving a second-round wobble that saw them lose five of their last six games.
“Nung una, okay kami sa second round. Nag-adjust na ‘yung mga teams. Nahirapan kami ng konti. Pagdating ng do-or-die games, may nag-switch na lang,” said Lao.
Lao is confident the team will still be a force next season.
“I think next year, mas malakas (sila), for me. This year, kakarating lang ng ibang transferees. Next year, magiging okay ‘yung team. Most of the core will be intact. Kami lang ang mawawala,” said Lao.