MANILA, Philippines -- The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights had quite the cheering squad on Tuesday, when they took on the San Beda University Red Lions in Game 1 of the NCAA Season 95 men's basketball finals.
Prominently situated behind the Letran bench at the Mall of Asia Arena were former Letran coach and now NorthPort assistant coach Jeff Napa, along with Alfrancis Chua, who serves as Letran's special assistant to the rector for sports development aside from his more well-known job as San Miguel Corporation's sports director.
Also present was NorthPort head coach Pido Jarencio and NorthPort team manager Erick Arejola. Columbian head coach John Cardel, Columbian team governor Bobby Rosales, and Magnolia team governor Rene Pardo were also there, in a stunning display of support for the Knights.
Jarencio and Chua were on their feet in crunch time, as the Knights tried to hold off the Red Lions. Napa called for a chalkboard at some point in the fourth quarter and was seen giving instructions to Letran captain Jerrick Balanza.
Tan gave full credit to them for their support, acknowledging that they played a role in the Knights' 65-64 upset of the defending champions in Game 1.
"Malaking tulong," he said. "Kasi guys, hindi naman ako nahihiya sa mga players sabihin na this is our first time to play for the finals sa NCAA."
"So, 'yun, we got some encouraging words from our friends, mga legends, PBA players na nakakapagbigay ng pointers, to play for a championship game like this," he added.
Balanza, who drilled the three-pointer that gave Letran the lead for good with under four minutes left, welcomed the tips given to him by his former coach.
"Si Coach Jeff, kanina, sinasabihan niya ako tungkol sa depensa," said Balanza. "Kasi, isang play na lang binabato ng San Beda sa amin. So nakaka-execute sila."
"Sabi ko, 'Coach kasi ganito-ganito.' 'Hindi, ikaw ang mali.' 'Okay,'" he added. "Tapos na ako agad, 'di ba? Sabi ko, 'Sige coach.' Sabi niya, 'Alamin mo habang nasa bench ka.' Ganoon lang naman si Coach Jeff."
The Knights can go for the clincher in the best-of-3 series on Friday, still at the MOA Arena.
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