ASKED to comment about the performance of his big men, Letran coach Caloy Garcia turned to star point guard Mark Cruz and searched for an answer to a separate, seemingly more appropriate question.
“May big men ba tayo? Puro wing ‘yun eh,” he said after the Knights’ 63-61 win over Emilio Aguinaldo College last Wednesday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, drawing laughter from the press.
With an undersized frontline of Jamil Gabawan, Ford Ruaya, and Rey Publico, the Knights held off a Generals side led by 6-foot-6 Cameroonian Cedric Happi to snap a two-game skid.
And the Knights try to continue making up for their lack of height with their abundance in heart as they tangle with another towering team in Arellano on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
The Intramuros-based dribblers seek a third victory in seven games, but standing in the way are the second-running Chiefs, bannered by 6-foot-7 American slotman Dioncee Holts and 6-foot-5 Prince Caperal apart from spitfire guards Jiovani Jalalon, Nard Pinto, and Levi Hernandez.
“Yan na naman, when it comes to the height, they're bigger,” Garcia said ahead of the 2 p.m. encounter. “Pero I think `yung heart, mas malaki `yung sa amin. That will give us the strength against them.”
Gabawan and Ruaya, both standing just 6-foot-2, have their work cut out for them once again as they team up with the 6-foot-5 Publico, the Knights’ lone legitimate big man whose showing still leaves much to be desired.
“You can’t ask anything from them except to just to try to box out other teams’ big men and match up as best as they can,” Garcia said as his team is obviously trying to cope with the departure of last year’s top local big man in Raymond Almazan.
With that, do-it-all forward Kevin Racal has been forced to pitch in the rebounding department, emerging tied for the team lead with Gabawan with 6.2 boards per game.
And they hope their makeshift squad can hold the fort against the Chiefs (5-2), who are aiming to recover from a grueling 98-99 triple-overtime loss to Jose Rizal University last Friday as they look to move closer to league-leading San Beda again.
EAC tries to bounce back from its own defeat at the hands of the Knights as it takes on Mapua, which is coming off a breakthrough win, in the second game at 4 p.m.
The Generals (1-5) became the owner of the league’s worst slump with a five-game skid after the Cardinals (1-6) halted their own six-game slide with an 89-81 win over San Sebastian last Monday.