MANILA, Philippines – After playing in the shadow of Bernadeth Pons and Chin-Chin Basas for the bulk of her UAAP career, Heather Guino-o finally came to her own in UAAP Season 81 – her last year with the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws.
In her first four seasons with FEU, Guino-o had been content to be a supporting player. She was a capable scorer and solid defender, but her team never needed her to be their star or their leader. Those responsibilities instead went to Pons and Basas.
"Noong apat na taon ko before dito sa UAAP, parang 'di ko pa tinatatak sa isip ko din mag-lead," admitted Guino-o on Wednesday, as she reflected on the end of her UAAP career. "Andoon pa rin 'yung doubt sa sarili ko."
Her role had changed in Season 81. With Pons having graduated, and Basas not playing, the Lady Tamaraws needed a leader. Guino-o did her best to fulfill that role, along with skipper Jerrili Malabanan.
When rookie ace Lycha Ebon went down with a knee injury midway through the season, FEU needed someone to step up as a scorer. Guino-o showed that she was capable of carrying the offense, coming up with some big games.
She was at her best in their last game of the elimination round, when Guino-o came up with 24 points as the Lady Tams claimed a morale-boosting five-set shocker over defending champions De La Salle University.
Guino-o carried that strong performance in the Final 4, when she led the Lady Tams to an upset of top-seeded Ateneo de Manila University in their first game to force a decider. She had 17 points in that game, putting up 8 kills, 5 aces and 4 blocks in superb all-around outing.
The Lady Eagles eventually shut down Guino-o in the do-or-die game, limiting her to 12 points in a four-set Ateneo triumph to advance to the finals. Afterward, the veteran spiker was emotional as she looked back on what has been an impressive campaign for FEU in Season 81.
"Sobrang saya po na nakarating po kami sa kung nasaan po kami ngayon," said a still teary-eyed Guino-o. "Parang simula pa lang, ang dami nang nagda-doubt sa amin, pero pinakita po naming lahat na hindi kami basta-bastang team."
Guino-o was glad to have come out of her shell in her final season, just when her team truly needed her.
"Ngayon nga po, itong huling taon ko, natutunan ko na kailangan ko magtiwala sa sarili ko para maipakita ko na kaya kong makatulong sa team," said the veteran.
"Para sa akin, hindi kailangang makipagsabayan sa malalakas. Hindi kailangan puro lakas kasi kailangan gamitin ang puso at utak," added Guino-o.
Guino-o finished her UAAP career as the 7th best scorer in the league, totaling 179 points on 157 kills, 3 blocks, and 19 aces for the Lady Tamaraws.
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