MANILA, Philippines -- It took Jose Rizal University (JRU) just seven games in the NCAA Season 95 men's basketball tournament to match their win total from last year.
The Heavy Bombers languished to a 3-15 win-loss record in Season 94, winning twice in the first round against San Sebastian College and Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC), then repeating over EAC in the second round. In between their wins against the Generals, JRU lost 8 straight games.
So far in Season 95, they have exceeded expectations. They broke through with an 80-77 triumph over Arellano University, then shocked University of Perpetual Help, 71-66, before grabbing their third win on their home floor by overcoming EAC, 64-58.
"Alam namin, EAC will come out strong tonight, pero ang pinaghandaan talaga namin, we know that it's a game of streaks," said JRU coach Louie Gonzales.
The Heavy Bombers played without top scorer Agem Miranda, who is serving a one-game suspension. But Gonzales got plenty of big shots from his young players, including Chester Jungco, John Amores, and JL delos Santos.
"Hindi sila papayag na basta-basta matalo lang, especially andito sa home turf namin," Gonzales said of his team.
Gonzales, who is in his first year as JRU's head coach, insisted that matching last season's win total was not in their minds. All that he is focused on is the constant improvement of his players, several of whom are rookies or playing major minutes for the first time in their collegiate careers.
"Every day sa practice, ang iniisip lang namin is to beat 'yung personal best ng bawat isa, personal best ng each player, and the personal best ng team namin. Ayun lang talaga ang iniisip namin," said Gonzales.
For Jungco, however, getting their third win only made the Heavy Bombers hungrier for more success.
"Masaya pero para sa amin, kulang pa 'to. Alam namin na marami pa kaming dapat gawin. Dapat mag-ensayo pa kami ng mabuti," said the young big man, who had 12 points and 8 rebounds in the win.
"Basta, stick to the system lang kami kay coach, maniwala kami sa bawat isa, lalo na sa coaching staff namin. Alam namin na may mararating kami ngayong season," he added.
The Heavy Bombers will try to build on their win when they take on De La Salle-College of St. Benilde on Friday next week.
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