ALDIN Ayo no longer wants the entire Letran community to feel heartbroken again the way it did the two times the school made the NCAA men’s basketball finals over the last three years.
And with the opportunity knocking, Ayo and his Knights are determined not to let it slip away.
On the cusp of ending a 10-year title drought after winning the opener of the best-of-three series against reigning champion San Beda, 94-90, Ayo said he’s looking to end the finals letdowns for all of the ‘Letranistas,’ and most especially to the team's senior players.
“Yung mga beterano, they’ve suffered enough,” said Ayo, obviously referring to the school’s runner-up finishes to the Red Lions in 2012 and 2013,
Letran has not gotten a 1-0 lead against San Beda in those two previous championship meetings, and that’s the reason why Ayo is hopeful the Knights can finally put the pain behind them with a win on Tuesday.
“Kahit naman nung nasa Sorsogon ako, nung natalo sila, lahat ng Letranista, we were heartbroken,” said the rookie mentor. “We don’t want to feel that again.
“We are going to do our very best na hindi na maulit ‘yun,” added the Letran alumnus.
The Knights won their 16th and last NCAA title in 2005 when Louie Alas was still their head coach, making them the most accomplished team in the rich history of the league at the time.
But the Red Lions have since leapfrogged them at the top with 19 titles after winning eight of the league’s last nine championships, including five straight from 2010 to 2014.
Incidentally, it was the veterans who showed the way for the Knights in the Game One win.
Kevin Racal had 28 points, five rebounds, and five assists for the Intramuros-based school, while Mark Cruz added 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and five steals behind a 4-of-7 shooting from the field.
Racal and Cruz are both PBA-bound shortly after the finals.
Ayo was so glad following the Game One win that he took time to celebrate with his players.
“Tumitira rin kami. ‘Yun naman ‘yung ginagawa namin throughout the season. ‘Yung laro namin, ‘yun din laro nila. It was fun because we were playing tough defense and ‘yung offense nandoon. Classic game,” the Letran coach.