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Alumni rally behind Knights

Four Letran College alumni rally behind the Knights, boosting their morale ahead of their battle with College of Saint Benilde in Game 3 of Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament on Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

Former stars Jerrick Balanza, Ato Ular, Allen Mina and Christian Balagasay dropped by the Knights training last Thursday to fire them up, similar to what Ateneo de Manila University alumni did a day before the Blue Eagles prevailed in the crucial Game 2 of their Season 85 University Athletic Association of the Philippines best-of-three finals series against University of the Philippines.

Balanza, who helped Letran capture the crown three years ago before making his way to the Philippine Basketball Association, said they really took the time off their busy schedules to inspire and motivate the Knights.

In particular, he talked to graduating players such as Brent Paraiso and Louie Sangalang, saying that they have to make an impact in Game 3 knowing that this will either make or break their chances of landing in the PBA.

“We’ve been planning to come here, but today (Thursday) is the only time that our schedules are open,” said Balanza, who is now a valuable role player for NorthPort, a team being managed by Knights coach Bonnie Tan.

“I just told them to go all out because they don’t know what’s going to happen after their college career is done so they really have to show up. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who are making their fates.”

The Knights need all the motivation they could get as they are facing a rampaging Blazers side without skipper Fran Yu, who was slapped with a one-game suspension after elbowing Mark Sangco in the second quarter of Game 2.

A Letran victory in Game 3 would not only give it a rare three-peat but will only etch it in the league record book as the only school to win the NCAA title twice in the same year.

But should the Blazers prevail, they would corner their second NCAA title and break their 22-year title drought.

Balanza said it all boils down to mental toughness.

“I told them to be tough, especially mentally because they’re physically ready. They just have to talk to each other to determine how they will play in Game 3,” Balanza told Daily Tribune.

Tan, for his part, stressed that the presence of the alumni is a major boost to their morale.

“They really wanted to come here for our practices but couldn’t do so because of their schedules in the PBA. They are the ones who initiated this visit,” he said.

“They told the players to fight and not give up.”

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