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    Dad's presence, Animam's words boost Rhena Itesi's confidence as NU completes six-peat

    Nov 24, 2019
    PHOTO: Marlo Cueto

    RHENA Itesi saw the personalized championship shirts Ria Nabalan and Jhianne Layug had last year when National University completed the five-peat and thought that once its her turn to graduate, she'll have one of her own.

    "Last year, I was jealous when I saw Ria Nabalan and Jhianne Layug's shirts," the Congolese center said of those which had her seniors and the perfect 80-0 record written on it.

    "This year, I got mine."

    Itesi was just overcome with emotion as the Lady Bulldogs bagged their sixth straight UAAP women's basketball title with a 66-54 Game Two win over University of Santo Tomas in the finals on Saturday.

    "I wanted this six-peat," she said after pouring 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and three steals in the win that capped off her five-year run in NU with five titles to boot.

    "I’ve been in NU for like seven years. First two years I didn’t play, and then played five years. But I haven’t been supported the way they supported me this year, especially in this championship. Everyone was at my back. Everyone was like, ‘Rhena you can do it.'"

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      Boosting Itesi's confidence was the presence of her dad, who came all the way from Congo to watch.

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      And as if she needed more motivation, Jack Animam, the injured forward who was unable to play for the Lady Bulldogs in the finals, made sure that the 6-foot-4 center, togeher with the rest of the team, are motivated to continue this winning tradition and not let her down.

      "She messaged me the day before the first game. She said, 'I know that you always got my back, but you can do it without me.' I was really crying. We did a video call, I couldn’t even look at her because this is my first championship to play without Jack, because every time I played the championship, when I’m scoring she's shouting at my back that, 'Rhena, you score and I'll get the rebound.’ And when she was scoring, I’m getting the rebound. It was always like that," she shared.

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      "It just made me want it more."

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      PHOTO: Marlo Cueto
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