BARELY has it warmed up regaining the men’s basketball championship of the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities (NAASCU), and yet St. Clare College is already mulling over going for a back-to-back title by next season.
With only two players graduating from the current roster that beat Fatima University recently for the crown, the Saints are very much capable of repeating the feat next year, according to head coach Jino Manansala.
“Ayaw naming isipin na tsamba ito,” said Manansala, who was with assistant Tonton Sangco, star player Aris Dionisio, and St. Clare College top official Dr. Jay Adalem in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday at Shakey’s Malate.
“Dalawang players lang ang mawawala sa amin, pero may iba pang papasok na magagaling. Pinag-hirapan namin ito, kaya sana tuluy-tuloy na iyan.”
The Saints edged out the Phoenix in the deciding Game Three of the finals last week, 64-62, to regain for the school the title it last won in 2012 also under the reigns of Manansala.
It was the fifth straight finals appearance for the Saints, but the most difficult path towards the championship.
“Ito ang pinakamahirap. Ang daming hindi inaasahan na nangyari,” recalled the son of former PBA player Jimmy Manansala, who was thrown out during the course of Game 3 of the Saints’ semifinal showdown against Lyceum of Subic Bay, and endured a 64-45 rout at the hands of Fatima in Game Two of the finals.
But with Dionisio at the helm, the Saints were not to be denied in finally ending its three straight bridesmaid finishes in the league.
Adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player, the 21-year-old Dionisio, a Business Administration student, vows to help the team win a second straight championship in its next campaign.
“Babalik at lalaro pa ako sa team next year,” he said in the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Accel, Shakey’s, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
Meanwhile, Adalem also praised the big difference the live coverage of the tournament had made for the league. Games were broadcast by TV coveror BTV.
“It was essential for us to have a TV coverage. Financially, medyo heavy sa amin (league), but it was definitely be best NAASCU ever because we’re able to showcase the talent of the league,” said Adalem.