SAN Sebastian is celebrating the gains in their short NCAA campaign and not dwelling in what might have been.
With the Stags’ impressive surge late in the tournament after being booted out of semis contention, coach Rodney Santos was asked if CJ Perez would have kept them in the mix for the playoffs.
“I think so,” said Santos, but stressed the Stags actually have moved in the preseason on when the versatile forward left San Sebastian to join Ateneo.
“Kahit papaano, meron silang (other teams) titignan. This season alam nila na ang babantayan lang nila si Bradwyn (Guinto), (Jamil) Ortuoste, Ryan (Costelo). Kung nandyan si CJ, at least mag-iisip sila.”
“When we lost CJ, we lost 20 points at least,” said Santos.
“Since tapos na ’yun, before the start of the season, sabi ko sa kanila huwag natin hanapin ‘yung wala. Hanapin natin kung sino ‘yung nasa atin at palakasin natin kung sino ‘yung nandito.”
Perez will be eligible to play in the UAAP next year as Ateneo tries to plug the hole that will be left by Kiefer Ravena, who is now in his final year.
San Sebastian has been scoring big wins over San Beda and Letran, both at the top spot in the NCAA.
On Tuesday, the Stags scalped another semifinal contender in Perpetual Help, scoring a 91-87 win.
The Stags now hold a 6-11 record, surpassing their win total last season with one match to play.
Santos noted that with Perez’s exit, San Sebastian found rising stars in former Staglets Michael Calisaan and Ryan Costelo.
Calisaan had been averaging 16.19 points per outing, while Costelo has normed 11.31 points and a team-high 4.31 assists.
“Alam naman natin na CJ is a go-to-guy. Everyone will complement to his style of play. Pero since nawala, we have to look for alternatives. That is why we used the triangle offense. Equal opportunity sa offense at nag-add din kami ng dribble drive,” said Santos.
“This is the best opportunity for the players to step up and prove their worth,” he added.