WHENEVER sportswriters gather late at night and talk about the greatest collegiate teams, you can almost always hear someone blurting out such familiar teams as FEU, UE, UST Ateneo and La Salle in the UAAP and San Beda, Letran and San Sebastian College in the NCAA.
In the NAASCU, the University of Manila and Centro Escolar University will surely be in the conversation.
But St. Clare College?
Well, St. Clare is certainly not right there in the mix.
But the Saints, who captured their second NAASCU title in five years, are surely headed to this long and winding road taken by these great school-teams.
Handled by NAASCU chairnan Dr. Ernesto Jay Adalem and coach Jino Manansala, the Caloocan City-based Saints proudly accept this challenge to become the next great collegiate team in this generation.
Can they do it?
“Yes we can,” said Adalem during a rare appearance in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Resraurant in Malate recently.
“There is nothing you can’t achieve if you put your heart and mind into it,” explained Adalem, who is greatly resposible for keeping a highly-competitive team not only to win championships but also to maintain an active sports program in the school.
Adalem and his brother, Dr. Ernesto Ray Adalem are known active proponents of sports in the community through the St. Clare Group of Schools as the best way to fight illegal drugs.
Manansala shared the same vision.
“Right now, we’re thinking of back-to-back (NAASCU) titles. From there, we’ll see what we can achieve next. Nothing is impossible,” said Manansala, who is best remembered for leading the Saints to their first-ever NAASCU title in 2012.
After winning the title, the Saints went to make it back to the finals in the next three years -- from 2013, 2014 and 2015 -- but lost to the CEU Scorpions.
They can’t be denied this time.
With only two players graduating from the present roster that beat Our Lady of Fatima University in the best-of-three title showdown recently, the Saints are very much capable of repeating the feat next year.
And if Manansala would have his way, the Saints look to dominate in the coming years.
“Fortunately, we’re losing only two players from our lineup this year due to graduation. But we have a lot more new good players coming,” added the son of former PBA Rookie of the Year awardee Jimmy Manansala.
Manansala’s optimism come from the fact that three of his star-players -- NAASCU Most Valuable Player awardee Aris Dionisio, Mythical Five member Paeng Rebugio and Rookie of the Year Rojay Santos -- are returning to the team next season.
(Only team captain Bong Managuelod and Jordan Rios are not returning next season after maxing on their eligibility).
Dionisio, the 21-year-old Business Administration student, personally assured the school management that he would return to the team.
The 6-5 forward from Bustos, Bulacan averaged 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in leading the Saints’ successful title campaign.
Against the Phoenix in the title-clinching 64-62 win, Dionisio finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.
It’s still too early to tell whether or not these Saints will go all the way and follow the lead of the other great collegiate teams in this side of the basketball universe.
But don’t blame them for thinking they can do it.
The basketball gods must like them a lot.
The Saints are on cloud nine -- and they surely want to stay there.
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Unless some sinister hands in sports could have their way again in the coming Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) elections on Nov. 25, it will be Jose “Peping” Cojuangco of equestrian versus Ricky Vargas of boxing in the fight to become the president of the country’s governing sports body.
Cojuangco, the uncle of former President Aquino, is seeking a fourth straight term as POC president. He held the position since 2004 or a 12-year period marred by unforgettable setbacks that far outnumber the victories. Only the silver medal effort by weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in the Rio Olympics saved Cojuangco’s three -term reign from total ignominy.
It was also during Cojuangco’s reign that the POC clashed with its co-equal, the Federation of School Sports Association of the Philipines (FESSAP), leading to an all-Filipino confrontation during the FISU Congress in Kazan.
FISU (or the Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire) upheld its recognition of FESSAP and rejected the POC motion to stop the FESSAP-backed Filipino athletes from competing in the Kazan Universiade.
It was also during Cojuangco’s term that super GM Wesley So left the country and transferred to the United States after the POC prevailed upon the Philippine Sports Commission to withold any financial incentives.
With several disgruntled sports officials banding together to end Cojuangco’s reign, Vargas decided to throw his hat in the POC elections.
Vargas, the grandson of former PAAF head Jorge Vargas, will lead a star-studded ticket composed of Rep. Bambol Tolentino of cycling (chairman), Rep. Albee Benitez of badminton (first vice president), retired Gen. Lucas Managuelod of muay thai (second vice president), Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios (treasurer), and Ting Ledesma of table tennis (auditor).
With Cojuangco are Tom Carrasco (chairman), former Gintong Alay head Joey Romasanta (first vice president), Jeff Tamayo of soft tennis (second vice president), Julian Camacho of wushu (treasurer) and Jonee Go of canoe-kayak (auditor).