IT wasn't the end Jack Animam envisioned for her collegiate career, with her oceans away from her team as National University celebrated winning its sixth straight UAAP title.
Answering to the country's call left the 6-foot-2 forward grounded in Auckland, New Zealand, with doctors keeping her in the foreign land as she nursed an orbital fracture on her right eye during her stint with the Gilas Pilipinas Women's team.
But although that eye injury prevented her from being part of the Lady Bulldogs' recent conquest, Animam's teammates made sure that she's still with them in spirit.
NU dedicated the whole UAAP Season 82 women's basketball Finals to their injured captain, bringing in a cardboard cutout of her image and even placed a gold medal on its neck as it dispatched University of Santo Tomas, 66-54 on Saturday to cap off its sixth perfect season.
"It’s so sad talaga without Jack. Sabi ko lang sa sarili ko at sabi ko lang sa kanila, 'Let’s not take away what Jack missed. Let’s give this to Jack.'," said coach Pat Aquino, who wore a special championship shirt bearing an animated image of Animam that only he had.
Despite the absence of the Mythical Team member, the whole team picked up the cudgels in leading the Lady Bulldogs rewrite history with this 96th straight win that delivered a sixth consecutive title in the women's division.
"Siya yung naging motivation namin. Wala siya, so nag-step up kaming lahat," said Kaye Pingol.
Monique del Carmen further elaborated: "Sobrang laking bagay ni Jack para sa amin."
"Si Jack yung pinaka-ingay namin. Nung nawala siya, lahat kami nag-ingay. Yun yung maganda. Parang titingnan mo yung positive side. Nabigyan kami ng chance na lahat kami mag-step up, maging vocal in and out of the court."
It was Kelli Hayes who filled the shoes of Animam in NU's 70-65 Game One win over UST, firing 16 points, four rebounds, two steals, an assist, and a block.
The backcourt tandem of Pingol and del Carmen, on the other hand, followed suit in the clincher, with Pingol racking up 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals before hurting her right shoulder in the fourth period, and del Carmen tallying 15 points, four assists, two rebounds, and two steals to be adjudged as the Finals MVP.
Those performances only brought a smile on the face of Aquino, and surely Animam herself.
"Thankful ako sa seniors ko, and syempre to all the players that have been playing this season," said the decorated mentor. "Sobrang thankful ako sa kanila and I'm just happy. Sobra."