AMID a forgettable NCAA Season 97 for Jose Rizal University, head coach Louie Gonzales kept the faith in his team, knowing that they’ll get to where they eventually want to be with the right amount of work and the correct mindset.
Now, it’s all beginning to come together for Gonzales and this young, exciting squad from Mandaluyong.
The Heavy Bombers finally notched their first win in the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament, a 97-74 drubbing of the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals.
This comes after nearly pulling off an early upset over the defending champions Letran Knights, as they led the fancied squad from Intramuros from the start only to lose the game in overtime, 101-97.
“Siguro natuto na kami sa pagkakamali namin sa Letran. Samin na yung panalo na yun e, so ginawa namin kung ano yung ginawa namin sa Letran, at pinagigihan pa namin pa,” said Agem Miranda who finished with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in the win.
“Nag-bounce back kami ngayon, sobrang eager namin manalo, muntikan na kasi yun e so ngayon kinuha na namin yung panalo.”
Their performance in the past two games were actually how Gonzales has always envisioned this squad. The Heavy Bombers utilized their speed and their players’ ability to play from various positions to push the tempo of the game – evident as they scored 97 points in both occasions.
“That’s the only way for us na makalaro lahat e, for me to utilize yung bench, kailangan talaga yung pace nung game ma-maintain namin e,” Gonzales stated.
“Kailangan pahirapan namin yung kalaban sa depensa and kailangan pahirapan din namin sila sa opensa kasi ayun lang talaga yung paraan. Nag-commit kami sa bawat isa before the season started na that’s only way for us to compete and manalo.”
For the game, the Heavy Bombers made 12 three pointers and shot a healthy 45.7 percent clip in 81 field goal attempts. More than half of their made shots came from assists as they finished with 20 in total against just 10 turnovers for the game.
They were relentless on the other end of the court as well, as they forced the Generals to 26 turnovers and turned those errors into 37 big points for their side.
For Gonzales, it says a lot about how this team is built.
“Those 26 [forced] turnovers, those 20 assists, shows a lot kung paano namin binibuild yung team na’to. It’s all about trust and effort,” he shared.
“We don’t let any stones unturned offensively and defensively kasi again, di kami malalaki. For us to win kailangan talaga tulong-tulong yung lima, hindi lang yung mga nasa loob pero pati yung mga ipapasok ko at irorotate ko. Kailangan alam talaga nila yung roles na gagampanan nila.”
The Bombers improve to 1-2.
Return of veteran troika a shot in the arm for Bombers
Another reason why the Heavy Bombers have been performing the way that they have been is their depth with the return of several key players.
Miranda, John Amores and Ry de la Rosa missed last season for various reasons but with their return, they’ve given the Heavy Bombers the much needed firepower.
“Siguro dahil dun sa return din ng mga starters ko, it gave me a lot of luxury. Andyan si Agem, Ry is back, JL is back he didn’t play that much nung last game namin – ganun naman talaga direction ng JRU basketball e, it’s all about the team, it’s all about us sharing the basketball, it’s all about movement,” he said.
For JL de los Santos, someone who had to carry a lot of responsibility in the absence of the trio, the return is definitely a welcome development for the team.
Amores gives them a versatile forward who can defend multiple positions and get shots for himself, Miranda gives them a solid combo-guard who can create off the dribble while De la Rosa gives them a deadshot shooter who can keep defenders honest.
“Naging malaking tulong yung pagdating nung mga nawala samin nung Season 97. Nung Season 97 na yun parang rebuilding kami nun e,” Delos Santos shared.
“Nawala si Miranda, si Dela Rosa, si Amores, nawala sila noon e so nag-rebuild kami nun. Ngayon dumating na sila samin, parang bumalik agad yung chemistry namin as a team nung Season 95.”
De los Santos is confident that they can reach new heights this season and repay the trust and patience that his coach and their community has given to them.
“Tumaas ang chance namin na makuha yung mga panalo namin lalo na’t dumating na yung tatlo. Sobrang laking bagay talaga nila samin, nung preseason palang maganda na yung tinatakbo namin, hanggang dito sa NCAA.”