IF JP Calvo just had his way, he would have soldiered on in what turned out to be his final game in his collegiate career for Letran.
"Gusto ko pang bumalik," he admitted after suffering a high-grade left ankle sprain at the nine-minute, 44-second mark of the third quarter after a mad scramble with Lyceum's Mike Nzeusseu.
"Kung ako ang tatanungin, maglalaro talaga ako para sa Letran, lalo na para sa mga teammates ko. Last year ko na ito eh. Wala na akong next year pa."
Without the court general to set the tempo, the Knights slowly crumbled in that period as the floodgates opened for the Pirates, breaking the game wide open from a 56-55 deficit to a 70-56 advantage, effectively taking them out in the Final Four.
Calvo still tried to rescue Letran in that deluge, coming in at the 3:57 mark of that frame, but with him hobbling all over the floor, coach Jeff Napa knew better to save his starting point guard, taking him out for good a minute later.
"Sinabihan na lang ako ni coach Jeff na wag ko na pilitin," said Calvo as he sat helpless on the bench, watching as the Knights' season slowly went down the drain and ended with the Pirates' 109-85 rout to advance to the NCAA Season 94 Finals. "Pero yun nga, di mo masasabi ang aksidente."
Napa lauded Calvo's fighting spirit, but he didn't want to jeopardize the future of his playmaker.
"JP is a warrior. Marami na siyang pinagdaanan na injuries. Pero medyo mabigat yung nangyari sa kanya na di niya kaya ibalik ang sarili niya," said the stern mentor, aware of the bright future that awaits Calvo.
"Ayaw rin naman naming i-abrupt yung career ni JP dahil siya yung pinakamagaling na point guard ngayon eh, kahit sa UAAP or whatsover. Ayokong sirain yung career niya ngayon. Malaki pa career ni JP sa PBA. Kailangan mo lang i-appreciate yung bata sa ginagawa niya then susuklian ka niya."
Sad as he may be bidding goodbye to the school where he spent his last five years, Calvo remains proud to have laid down the foundation for Letran for the seasons to come.
"Gusto ko lang ibalik yung tradisyon na yung Letran, nagcha-champion. Gusto ko na pag-alis ko sa Letran, nag-champion kami o di kaya sana maganda ang exit namin," he said.
"Pero sabi ko sa kanila, lalo na sa mga kapalitan ko na sila Fran Yu, (Jason) Celis, at (Bonbon) Batiller, dapat wag mag-relax at kung ano ang dapat nilang iimprove, iimprove nila. Yun ang key sa isang player eh. Halos naman lahat dito, kaya mag-champion lalo na next year na babalik din si Jerrick (Balanza)."
Calvo also urged his teammates to take this setback as a motivation to aspire for grander goals in the following years, saying, "Namnamin ninyo yung pagkatalo natin kasi ito yung dahilan para makabawi kayo next year. Ngayon na kinapos kami sa Final Four, sabi ko sa kanila wag lang kayo magre-relax sa practice. Lagi lang go hard."
It might not have been the storybook ending Calvo envisioned, but he will always treasure the five years he's spent inside the confines of Muralla -- one that includes a championship back in 2015.
"Yung championship talaga ang pinakahindi ko makakalimutan. Sobrang saya talaga. Lahat ng Letran community, naghihiyawan. Paguwi sa Letran, lahat ng tao nagpapa-picture sa iyo," he said.
But more than the conquests, Calvo treasures the bond he had forged with his peers, something which he will treasure as he embarks on a new chapter in his career.
"Limang taon ako sa dorm ng Letran kaya di ko makakalimutan yung mga kalokohan naming ginagawa doon," he said with a chuckle.
Calvo may not have won the championship he wanted this season, but he has already established himself as one of the best playmakers in the league -- one which he's looking to bank on as he makes the jump and tries his luck for the upcoming 2018 PBA Draft.
"Magbabakasakali ako. Sana makuha (sa draft)," the 5-foot-7 guard said.