SAN Sebastian coach Egay Macaraya went into NCAA Season 93 with modest expectations for his young Stags.
Now these Stags are just a win away from a surprise return to the finals.
San Sebastian had to survive a gritty Letran squad before blowing past Jose Rizal University in another do-or-die match to get to this point.
But now standing in their way is defending champion San Beda as the two storied squads renew their rivalry on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena for a berth in the finals opposite Lyceum.
Game time is at 3:30 p.m. with the winner of this highly anticipated knockout match advancing to the best-of-three finals duel against the unbeaten Pirates.
With veteran forward Michael Calisaan leading the charge and guys like RK Ilagan, Ryan Costelo and Jayson David finding their rhythm, Macaraya is confident his wards have what it takes to emulate a Stags squad led by Calvin Abueva that reached the finals in 2011.
"Pakiusap ko lang sa mga bata, I always ask them if they’re still with me. Because ako kasi, I always have the heart and the desire to win every game," Macaraya said.
"If they say na, 'Coach, we are with you' then wala akong dahilan para matakot. Sana lang hindi sila makuntento sa mga ginagawa naming nagpapanalo," he added.
Macaraya knows that they're the underdogs against the mighty Red Lions, who still have tons of firepower at their disposal. San Beda is led by the deadly tandem of Robert Bolick and JV Mocon, with the towering Donald Tankoua manning the paint.
Macaraya knows they need a total team effort to match the Red Lions' individual prowess.
"We cannot win with limited na firepower especially on defense dahil ang lalaki e. Ang maganda lang sa team ngayon, everybody is stepping up," Macaraya continued.
"Lahat, basta given a chance, we have to play good defense on them because this is a good offensive team. Kahit sa opensa, malalaki din. Import na magaling din. We will just try our very best," he added.
Regardless of the result, Macaraya is already proud of what they've achieved. Given their youth and lack of ceiling, it's already an achievement to be in this position.
"Ang pinakaimportante lang is we’re here na. Against San Beda so kung anumang magagawa namin against San Beda, then it will always be a history na yung maliliit na San Sebastian, umabot na rin ng isang game na lang sa Finals," he said.