For USJ-R coach Leode Garcia, his team has nothing to be ashamed of
Despite falling short against the powerhouse University of the Visayas (UV) Green Lancers in the deciding Game 3 of the Cesafi men’s basketball finals last Monday night, University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) Jaguars rookie head coach Leode Garcia believes his team still overachieved this season.
The Jaguars, who finished third last year, went on to top the elimination round and make it to the finals for the first time in 10 years.
But they faltered against the 13-time champion Green Lancers in the finals, collapsing in the endgame of Game 3.
Garcia admitted his team was disappointed right after the Finals.
“Actually that night after the Game 3, we were a bit affected because we really wanted that championship title,” said Garcia, whose wards rallied from 13 points down to tie the game midway through the fourth, only to fall victim to a 15-2 UV run that pushed the Green Lancers to their third straight men’s title.
But Garcia made sure that his wards would move on from the loss quick, telling them they had nothing to be ashamed of this season.
“I told them we have to accept it because [the series] is already done. We just have to look forward to next season,” said Garcia, the 47-year-old former player who took over the USJ-R coaching chores from Titing Manalili.
“I made them understand that maybe it’s just not our time yet.”
One thing that helped in comforting his players was the support from the school despite the loss.
The players also took comfort in the fact that they did achieve a lot of great things this season.
“It was a big achievement that we reached the finals. For me, that’s already like being a champion. Nobody expected we would make it to the championship round. And we made history, too, as it was the first time that USJ-R finished number 1 after the elimination round,” he said, referring to his top-place finish after the double round-robin eliminations.
UV ended up second, while the University of Cebu, which led most of the eliminations, dropped to third and the University of San Carlos settled for fourth.
Asked what he thought his team lacked against the three-peat men’s champion UV in the Finals, Garcia didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“We really lacked championship experience,” he said.
“They really knew where we would be intimidated. Their pressure defense was great and they were good in converting off our errors. In other words, they really wanted that title.”
It doesn’t mean, though, that he thinks his team lacked the hunger in the finals. In fact, he was very proud of how much the squad has improved on the court.
“Their confidence has really come out this season because I don’t pressure them that much when I coach them. I think that’s the reason why our system has improved,” said Garcia, who is currently back in his hometown in Siquijor for a break.
But the rookie coach knows more work has to be done if he wants his team to get back to the finals next season.
And some of that work begins with him.
“In my first year as a coach, I am very thankful to the Lord that he gave me the chance to handle a team like this and bring us to the finals right away. But I know I have a lot of things to improve on as a coach. That’s why I am planning to attend more coaching seminars in the future,” he said.
He knows he will have quite a tough task ahead of him next season as some of his core may opt to forego their final playing years in the Cesafi.
But he isn’t backing down from the challenge.
“Just like before, we will try our best to come out with good results,” he said.
For finishing runners-up in the recent Cesafi tournament, USJ-R is qualified to join the prestigious Philippine Collegiate Champions’ League.
But Garcia said they are still waiting for orders from USJ-R athletic director Fr. Roy Baluarte on whether they will be joining or not.
Should they be given the go signal, the team will be competing with the same lineup it used in the Cesafi tournament.
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