JEFF Napa couldn’t hide his frustrations after Letran let a victory slip away and allowed San Beda to steal their NCAA game in overtime.
“Hindi ako masaya. Frustrated ako eh. Totally frustrated ako,” he said after the Red Lions claimed the 80-76 overtime victory over the Knights on Friday. “Yung mindset namin ngayon is to play defense eh. As a coach, yung crucial situations na ganoon, nakaka-frustrate dahil di namin na-convert ng maganda.”
Jerrick Balanza put Letran up, 69-67 with 3.8 seconds left in regulation, but failed to clamp down on defense as Javee Mocon found Donald Tankoua for the overtime-forcing undergoal stab with 0.2 seconds remaining.
The Knights went on to falter in the extra period as AC Soberano and Robert Bolick took turns in dealing the Muralla-based side their second loss in six games.
But rather than feel down, Napa is using the setback as a motivation for his wards as they continue to try and earn everyone’s respect.
“Sinasabi ko sa players ko, this San Beda game will dictate kung sino ba kami ngayon, kung makikilala na ba kami ng buong basketball community or what,” he said. “Ngayon, di pa rin kami ganoong kakilala because we lost, but we’re still fighting pa naman. I’m very proud of my team. Kailangan ko lang sigurong pagtrabahuan ulit para makuha namin ang panalo.”
Napa is well aware that last year’s championship protagonists in San Beda and Lyceum are the bar, and if Letran wants to join that tier, it has to prove that it won't just keep in step but also win against the two favorites.
“Kung nasa Everest sila, yun ang kailangan naming puntahan, yung Everest na yun para makalaban talaga namin sila ng tapatan,” he said, doubling down on his ideals that defense wins championships.
“It’s all about the stops. Nandoon na kami eh, di lang napunta sa amin yung game. Give credit sa San Beda, their experience is nasa highest level na. Siguro kasalanan ko rin dahil we lost to a very good team, a champion team. Maybe in our second round, we’ll do our best para maabot namin yung Everest nila.”
And what better way for Napa than to continue honing his team in the flames as Letran gears up for Lyceum next Friday.
“Siguro ito yung kailangan naming pagdaanan kung gusto naming umabot ng championship,” he said. “Ito yung character test sa amin talaga, to beat a stronger team to emphasize sa mga schools na we’re here. Yung Letran nandito na. Humanda na kayo.”