FACING the mighty Lyceum Pirates, Letran needed all the boost that it could get and it came in the form of their ill-stricken teammate.
Jerrick Balanza was the Knights’ surprise guest and his mere presence, alone, was enough of a boost as they pulled the upset rug from under the Pirates, 80-79, in the NCAA Season 94 on Friday at the Filoil Flying V Center.
Balanza hasn’t played for the Knights since the end of the first round as he went through surgery to remove a tumor from his upper right lobe.
“Sobra yung frustration ko kasi yun nga, nakaupo ka sa bench, wala kang matulong, tapos nung may narinig akong boses na ‘Bong’ tapos pagtingin ko si Jerrick. Parang nagiba yung feeling, yung pakiramdam na nakasama mo ulit yung teammate na matagal mo ng hindi nakasama,” said Quinto who carried the Knights on his broad shoulders in the final six minutes of the game.
“Sabi ko nga, nakakamiss ang practice na wala si Jerrick so ayun. Iba yung feeling na yung teammate namin andyan na, siyempre kapatid namin yan. Kasama namin yan,” Quinto added as he broke into tears in the post-game interview.
Larry Muyang also played like a beast in the game, finishing with 24 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks in the game.
For the transferee from La Salle, he just couldn’t disappoint Balanza in this game.
“Di ko napapansin si Jerrick, tapos bigla na niya akong tinawag kanina, bigla akong nabuhayan ng dugo. Sabi nga ni Bong, yung isang kapatid namin nandyan nanonoood. Kaya binigay talaga namin lahat yung best namin,” said Muyang.
For Balanza, he really made it a point to not inform his team that he was going to the venue to watch them play.
Clad in all white, Balanza surprised everyone just right after tipoff, sitting behind the Letran bench to cheer on his brothers.
He then went full fan mode as he sat with former Knights Rey Nambatac and Kevin Racal in the bleachers.
“Wala talagang nakakaalam na pupunta ako, si Fr. (Victor Calvo) lang kasi tinawagan niya ako. Di na talaga ako mapakali sa bahay namin. Feel ko talaga okay na ako last week pa,” said Balanza.
“Kahit wala akong appointment sa doctor ko, pumunta ako ng Tuesday, sinabi ko na ‘doc andito ako para mangulit, baka pwede mo na ko bigyan ng clearance’ kasi gusto ko na talaga makasama ang mga kapatid ko, itong Knights,” he added.
Despite looking a whole lot lighter, Balanza said that he’s been feeling really good – proudly sharing that he was able to recover right away following the surgery.
“Okay naman na ako. Wala naman na akong nararamdamn. Feeling ko okay na ako, wala lang sa kundisyon,” said Balanza as he joked around his coach Jeff Napa about his game shape.
Balanza hadn’t been in the venue since August and he admits that he’s still yet to get used to the feeling of being a fan.
“Nung inabutan ko sila, parang di player ang pakiramdam ko kanina e. Naramdaman ko yung sinasabi ng mga fans na natetense sila e. Natetense talaga ako kanina, ito siguro yung sinasabi nila na tense. Ano sa tagal kong naglaro, di ko naramdaman yun e.”