FOR Jerrick Balanza, Letran's Final Four defeat this NCAA Season 94 is nothing more than a minor setback for a major comeback.
The 21-year-old forward, who's still recovering from a brain surgery, is confident that the foundation the Knights have built this year is enough to take them to the top of the mountain next season.
"Expect ninyo na mag-Finals ang Letran next year," he declared.
After all, it's amazing that a Letran team, which lost Balanza midway through the tournament, made it this far and almost gave a powerhouse Lyceum side a scare.
Who knows how things would have fared if JP Calvo did not suffer a high-grade left ankle sprain in the second half? Maybe, the result would not be as lopsided as Lyceum's 109-85 Final Four win on Friday.
But it's all in the past now, and Balanza could only salute his fellow Knights for what was a job well done.
"Sobrang proud ako sa mga coaches at teammates namin. Wala na akong masabi kasi pinakita na nila kung anong meron sila. Ganoon talaga, na-short kami. Bawi talaga next year," he said.
Oh, how Balanza wished to be one with Letran in this semifinals duel, one that he last felt in the Knights' championship season back in 2015.
"Pag-upo ko pa lang sa ringside, na-feel ko na agad yung atmosphere ng Final Four. Huling naramdaman ko yun, 2015 pa eh. As a player, gusto ko maglaro, pero alam naman natin na di pwede eh. Wala din akong magawa kundi maghintay," he said.
But the countdown begins this early as Balanza vows to return to full health come Season 95 and be one of the team's reliable leaders as he eyes to make graduating teammates Bong Quinto and JP Calvo proud.
"As a senior, confident ako kasi kaya namin pagtrabahuan lahat ng ito. Yung pagkawala ng mga senior namin, pagtatrabahuan namin para mapunan yung kawalan nila," he said.
"Si Bong na ang pinaka-kuya namin dito at pinapaalala niya lang na wag namin sirain yung samahan ng team namin. Si Toto naman, lagi yan nakatuon sa practice. Tahimik lang yan pero ayaw niya mag-relax kami. Yung mga natutunan namin sa kanila, kailangang madala namin yun next year para mas lalo kaming tumibay. Mawala man sila, hindi mababawasan ang experience namin."
With him set to play his final year next season, Balanza is positive that the best is yet to come for the Knights.
Siguro next year, masasabi ko ngayon pa lang, hindi lang Final Four ang mararating namin kasi naramdaman na namin kung gaano kahirap ang Final Four. Alam na namin kung paano namin tatagusin ito next year," he said. "Kaya yun nga, expect ninyo na aabot sa Finals ang Letran next year talaga."