LETRAN coach Jeff Napa’s ‘magic hugot’ continues to pay off with key contributions from unheralded players.
The Knights’ gutsy overtime win against San Sebastian Stags, which extended their streak to four, proved as the latest example.
After trusting King Caralipio with well-earned minutes in their 63-61 win over Perpetual, Napa found another gem in Alex Mandreza in their 79-75 overtime victory on Tuesday.
The two forwards might not be producing eye-popping numbers, but their value is something that can't be seen on the stat sheet.
In an unnerving third quarter for the Knights where they saw Jeo Ambohot head out because of a right wrist injury, Napa had no other choice but to turn to his bench for some valuable contributions.
Playing the Stags which usually opts to go small, Napa decided to once again field in Caralipio while also inserting the seldom-used Mandreza and the two definitely didn't disappoint.
"Ano naman yan eh, it's all a matter of giving a chance sa mga bata. Yun nga, in-emphasize namin na lagi silang maging ready, so, naging effective naman," said Napa after the game.
"Yung mindset ng mga bench players namin, talagang alam nila na bubunutin at bubunutin, whatever happens, so at least nagre-respond na sila," he added.
The pair put a fresh body on Michael Calisaan and relieved Bong Quinto of having to exert his energy on the defensive end.
They were getting rebounds, diving for the loose balls and getting the occasional baskets which would be the gravy to what they bring to the table.
For team skipper Rey Nambatac, it's not a coincidence that their streak started when Napa began to explore on the bench more and his reserves started responding positively.
"To be honest naman, para sa akin, talagang yung off the bench ang x-factor sa amin para manalo kami. I mean, yung four games namin, halos sila ang x-factor eh," said Nambatac.
Once in dire need of help, Nambatac is happy that his younger teammates are starting to build confidence among themselves and that his plea for help has been answered.
"Lagi kong sinasabi sa kanila na lagi kayong ready. Kasi... especially sa bench kasi anytime pwede kayo hugutin ni Coach Jeff at ipasok kayo... yun ang kagandahan doon, dahil nakinig yung mga off the bench namin sa akin," he said.
The key now for Napa is to keep their opponents guessing as to what they'll do next - or who he'll give minutes to.
It has proven to be effective so far and Napa has no plans of stopping this scheme.
"Bahala na lang ang kalaban mag-isip kung ano yung gagawin namin. Sikreto na lang namin yun kung ano ang gagawin namin. Pagpe-preparahan namin kahit sino pa yan."