MANILA, Philippines – It took them eight games, but the Letran Knights finally earned their first victory in the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament at the expense of San Sebastian on Wednesday.
And coach Rensy Bajar thinks the win will serve as the “turning point” of the season for the Knights.
“I think so. I am positive about it. We enjoyed this match and tomorrow we will immediately prepare for St. Benilde, but I am convinced that this is our turning point for this season,” said Bajar after their victory of 86-71 over the Stags at San Juan Arena.
“We are taking it step by step and I hope our experience will be strengthened. Hopefully this is the victory that will give us strength and pleasure in the coming matches.”
Despite the win, Bajar acknowledged there is still a lot of work to be done for the Knights, who will need to make an improbable run to reach a four-point mark this season.
One area Letran needs to focus on is limiting turnover. The Knights turned the ball over 34 times against the Stags, who had just 13 miscues.
“(There’s a) lack of maturity at the guard position because that’s what we lost last year. This is the first time they have had these experiences, so hopefully they learn from it.”
“That’s what I always emphasize. We have to play and perform as a team, especially in attack.”
Of course, it didn’t help the Knights that their star guard and captain Kurt Reyson was out on Wednesday due to a groin injury. Neil Guarino added 13 points in the win.
While the win against the Stags took the monkey off the Knights, the path doesn’t get any easier for the defending champions.
For starters, Bajar revealed that Reyson is doubtful to play in a crucial match against season 98 finals rival College of St. Benilde on Sunday.
‘Maybe we’ll give him some rest if he really can’t play. At least our other players have momentum. Of course, we won’t force him to play if he can’t play because the injury could get worse.”
Reyson, who has been entrusted with leading the Knights this season following the departure of last season’s core of Fran Yu, Brent Paraiso, Tommy Olivario, King Caralipio and Louie Sangalang, is currently the team’s top scorer with an average of 15 .4 points per game.
With Letran pretty much in survival mode, Bajar wants his departments to loosen up and shake off the pressure.
‘That is my favor with them. Just enjoy the game and don’t let it pressure you. If anyone needs to apply pressure here, it’s me.