Photo from MPBLAROUND THE REGION29
Supposed to go down, Bataan rises and seals a playoffs spot
by Niel Victor Masoy, January 29, 2020 12:16am
Back in September last year, the Bataan Risers’ bankroller in the Zetapro group failed to honor its commitment to the former and left the squad that currently competes in the ongoing Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan Cup.
With Bataan and Zetapro parting ways, the Risers also saw their coaching staff headed by Jhong Uichico and key players Anton Asistio, Jai Reyes, Alvin Pasaol, Leo Najorda, Fonzo Gotladera, Santi Santillan, and Sean Manganti left the team.
What was left in the Bataan squad - which then carried a 6-6 win-loss card - was assistant coach Jonas Villanueva and eight players.
Villanueva - a two-time Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) champion - was eventually promoted as the new head coach of the Risers, who found a new bankroller in the Camaya Coast.
Villanueva admitted what happened to the Risers was such a hard thing to endure. At that time, it appeared that Bataan is set to fall.
“It was hard kasi yung morale ng team, everyone was doubting Bataan, even the management,” he said.
But with the Camaya Coast fully committed to supporting the Risers, it gave Villanueva and the rest of the Risers the confidence to rise above the struggle and play on.
“Pero ang maganda naman sa nangyari, yung management na pumalit assured everyone na it’s gonna be different. Smooth yung operations lahat, everything will be provided, they will be taken care of. Maglalaro na lang,” shared Villanueva.
To reinforce his then undermanned team, Villanueva pulled the strings and landed quality players like Gino Jumao-As, Joseph Nalos, and ex-pro Reed Junitlla.
But more than that, Villanueva made sure to bond the whole team stronger than it was.
“Sabi ko nga, coming from 6-6, triny kong i-build sa kanila yung camaraderie, yung samahan, yung team work, pagtitiwala sa isa’t isa kasi maraming doubts e. Yung morale, yung character pwede talagang bumaba dahil sa nangyari pero nag respond sila in a good way,” he remarked.
"Kita naman, kita sa game, kita sa the way they enjoy each other’s company tapos happy sila ‘pag may nakaka-shoot so yun lang, yun yung binantayan ko nung una kasi ayoko sanang pumalit sa isang team na alam ko yung morale is down.”
Safe to say, Villanueva and the rest of the Risers have turned it around.
They were supposed to go down, but they rose to the occasion.
And with their win over General Santos last Friday, the Risers improved to a 19-9 win-loss card, and more importantly, sealed a playoffs spot in the tournament.
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