MUCH to his dismay, L-Jay Gonzales' body failed him when Far Eastern University needed him the most.
Cramping for the majority of the fourth quarter, the absence of the sophomore truly cost his side a lot as Universty of Santo Tomas took a 81-71 win to progress further in the stepladder semis of the UAAP Season 82 on Wednesday.
"Itong do-or-die game na ito, sobrang laking kawalan sa amin. Nandito na kami eh. Konti na lang, nandoon na kami," he rued.
Gonzales was leading the Tamaraws' charge after being down by 26, 57-31, with his inside bucket at the 6:35 mark cutting the lead down to five, 70-65. But his right leg gave up to cramps, forcing him to head back to the bench.
Yet it didn't take long before the 5-foot-10 playmaker made his way back on the court.
"Sabi ko kay coach, gusto ko bumalik para maglaro kasi gusto ko manalo," he said, showing the heart of a champion. "Yung ganoon kalaking lamang, bumaba ng five. Ang hirap habulin noon."
Gonzales still tried to keep himself on the court, until he could no longer stay, with cramps on both legs getting the better of him late.
"Sobrang nanghihinayang ako," lamented Gonzales, who finished with 11 points, nine assists, and three rebounds in the losing effort. "Sabi ko, ano ba to, gusto ko pa manalo. Ang laki na ng hinabol namin."
Painful as the experience was, the 20-year-old is using this setback as his fuel for next season.
And it all starts with him getting himself in a better basketball shape.
"Challenge din ito para sa conditioning ko. Sinabihan ako ng strength and conditioning coach namin sa ensayo na magpahinga na kasi may game pa, pero di ako masyado nagpahinga. Ito yung kinalabasan, nag-cramps yung dalawang paa. Wala nang magagawa, pero di ko naman ginusto yung nangyari," he said.
"Marami kaming natutunan sa game na ito at gagawin na lang namin yun na motivation. Sabi ko na lang sa sarili ko, gawin kong motivation yung seniors at saka yung coaches namin na yung tiwala nila, dapat maibalik ko."