SJ Belangel was a revelation for Ateneo in completing its historic perfect 16-game sweep and accomplishing a ‘three-peat’ in UAAP Season 82.
Belangel saved the best for last as he unleashed a career-high 15 points — from five three-pointers on 50 percent shooting — to help the Blue Eagles in sweeping University of Santo Tomas, 86-79, in Game Two on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The reason behind the sophomore’s breakout game? He didn’t want to let his seniors and starting point guard Matt Nieto down.
“Siguro mindset ko lang is for my seniors yun lang talaga, last game na. I won’t let kuya Matt down sa mga sinasabi niya sa akin,” said the former Ateneo high school star.
“Nireremind niya ako lagi galing off the bench na keep the energy. So ayun mindset ko lang this is for my seniors kaya ayun luckily I hit my shots,” he added.
Belangel nailed the big shots that killed the momentum of the Growling Tigers as he made the most of his extended minutes by embracing his role and applying all the things he learned from Matt, who is graduating along with his brother Mike, Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go and Adrian Wong.
“Niloloko nga ako ni Thirdy fireman daw ako. Parang needed the baskets siguro lagi point guard yung inaasahan,” the 20-year-old guard said. “Nakuha ko kay kuya Matt yung confidence na puso lang alam nyo naman si kuya Matt di magpapatalo kaya. Siyempre si Kuya Ty (Tio), wag niyo kakalimutan yun, doon ako kumukuha ng confidence sa kanilang dalawa.”
As Nieto got his fitting exit along with his fellow seniors, Belangel is the next man up next year when Ateneo tries to extend its dynasty.
The young point guard will be bringing his biggest learning from Matt.
“Leadership lang talaga tapos yung how to handle certain stuff, especially during practices yun yung mga natutunan,” he said.
But he insisted that it will be a collective effort between him and Tio to fill the void left by Nieto as point guard.
“For me I just have to be ready kasi hindi lang naman ako. Andyan si Kuya Ty, kasi sa mga nagagawa ko ngayon dahil sa kanila yun ni Kuya Matt,” Belangel said. “In practices we push each other hard para in game lahat ng ginagawa namin alam na namin. Next man up kami ni kuya Ty di ako lang.”