Is Benilde in its current form ready to win NCAA title? Rising star Oczon reacts

Levi Joshua Jr. Verora

Posted at Nov 30 2022 10:59 PM

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MANILA, Philippines – For budding College of St. Benilde star Miguel Oczon, the Blazers’ first NCAA finals appearance since 2002 is a “rewarding” achievement itself, but the team needs to turn its performance up a notch in the finals for a realistic shot of challenging the Letran Knights.

“We’re up against the defending champions, so we really have to earn it,” Oczon said in an interview with ABS-CBN Sports’ Standouts.

Oczon scored 17 points and 6 rebounds in his squad’s gritty 62-61 Final Four win over perennial contenders San Beda last Tuesday.

“It is very, very rewarding. Our hardships paid off. As I’ve said, we want to get that championship. Personally, I am grateful and happy that we are in the finals,” he shared.

However, in the process, the rookie-transferee pointed out that Benilde still has to fine-tune aspects of its game against the three-peat-seeking Knights.

Against the Red Lions, the Blazers led by as many as 13 points, but had to avert disaster late in order to hold on for the one-point win.

“We need to improve as a team. Defensively, we need to limit the opponent’s offense. Then, we have to polish our offense. We need to be in tip-top shape,” he said.

Letran punched its own ticket to the championship series by fending off the Lyceum Pirates, 67-58.

Moreover, the Knights have owned Benilde’s number, although the Blazers finished the elimination round with a league-best 14-4 record.

The defending two-time winners from Intramuros have already beaten their Taft counterparts twice — 74 -66 in the first meeting and then 81-75 in the rematch.

“Standings-wise, we’re no. 1 in the league. It shows our hard work paid off. (but) the job is not yet done,” Oczon added.

On a personal level, the 6-foot guard is motivated to take his own game to the next level and assume the leadership mantle.

“Probably, I’ll be more vocal about taking responsibility. I’m a soft-spoken guy, so I just want to be more vocal and more aggressive in playing the game,” the former NU Bullpup said.

“I want to be confident in my game, and I know my coaches have the trust in me. I just have to play well and enjoy the game.”

Benilde’s only NCAA basketball championship came in 2000, when they were led by the likes of Jondan Salvador, Sunday Salvacion, Al Magpayo, and Elvis Tolentino.

It is a feat Oczon and the rest of this iteration of Blazers hope to replicate as a way of honoring those who paved the way for them – including their coaching staff.

“I know Coach Charles (Tiu) is competitive like (the rest of us), and if he wants to win, we want to win for him too,” Oczon said.