EMILIO Aguinaldo College has always dreamed of someday making it big in the NCAA, going as far as aspiring to replicate the success experienced by Lyceum.
The Generals may be still far from achieving that, but for coach Oliver Bunyi, Friday’s thrilling 84-82 win over the Pirates should be a step in the right direction for the school.
“That’s what we want to happen. Sabi ko nga idol namin yun eh. Gusto naming maging ganoon,” said the first-year head coach, who also worked as an assistant for coach Rajko Toroman in the original iteration of the Smart Gilas program.
As huge of an upset as the victory was, Bunyi said that it’s the change of mindset which has helped EAC to defy the odds as it aims to move away from the label of being one of the league’s perennial cellar-dwellers.
“If you want to have a chance to win, i-visualize niyo na na kaya niyo. In-embrace naman ng mga bata yung ganoong attitude. Kung ang mga batang ito maglalaro ng tama, may chance kami na manalo against the big teams,” he said. “Pag laro sila ng tama, may laban kami. And we’re lucky na biniyayaan kami and we’re blessed with a win against LPU.”
Jethro Mendoza sank the game-winning layup with 1.5 seconds as the team's defense snuffed Lyceum's late alley-oop attempt to secure the victory.
“Again, we know how scrappy they are, pero yun nga ang gusto naming maging dream eh, na maging scrappy kami katulad nila," said Bunyi, who also drew solid games from Marwin Taywan and JP Maguliano.
But as positive as the win was for EAC, Bunyi is hoping that this won’t be the last as it seeks to shock more teams this NCAA Season 95 seniors basketball tournament.
“Sana swertehin tayo,” he said, with the Generals’ next assignment against defending champion San Beda. “We will try to visualize again that we can defeat the defending champions. We’ll do our job and we’re hoping na we’re gonna do the right thing, to at least to have a chance to beat San Beda.”
“If we are going to be the scrappiest, we are also going to be the happiest team in the NCAA.”