MANILA, Philippines – With his back against the wall, Calvin Oftana finally let loose.
In a must-win Game 2 of the NCAA Season 95 finals against streaking archrival Letran Knights, the San Beda Red Lions’ newly crowned MVP bounced back with 17 points, including a clutch go-ahead and-one, on top of 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks off the bench.
“Nung natanggap ko yung ball, sabi ko ‘Lord, ikaw na bahala rito, Lord,’” Oftana said of his late-game heroics against a red-hot Letran.
“Yun talaga nasa isip ko. Luckily napasok ko, foul-counted, at siyempre kailangan yung free throw. Lumamang kami ng isa.”
(When I got the ball, I said ‘Lord, it’s up to you.’ That’s what I thought. Luckily, it went in, foul-counted, and of course, we need the free throw. We got up by one.)
The fourth-year forward was laser-focused before the must-win game as he accepted his MVP plum without any celebration. Clearly, it worked wonders for the young Red Lions, who desperately needed his leadership, especially in high-pressure situations.
“Yung MVP na yun, wala na yun,” he said. “Thankful ako kay God, sa teammates ko, kay coach sa kumpiyansa na binigay niya. Siyempre di ko matatanggap yun kung wala sila. Na-awardan ako, tapos na, back to the locker. Focus for Game 2.
“Kailangan kong mag-comeback kasi sobrang sama ng laro ko sa Game 1. Kailangan namin tong game na to. Eto nga, nanalo kami. We’re ready for Game 3.”
(That MVP is nothing now. I’m thankful for God, my teammates and my coach for the confidence he gave me. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to receive that without them. I was awarded and that’s that, back to the locker. Focus for Game 2. I needed to come back because I had a really bad game for Game 1. We need this game and we won it. We’re ready for Game 3.)
Even in the face of riotous cheering and booing from the 18,407 fans who flocked the Mall of Asia Arena, Oftana just used it as energy to push on with the win instead of buckling under pressure.
“Sarap sa feeling kasi alam mong may kalaban yung crowd. Ganado sila sa pag-cheer nila sa team nila,” he said. “Sobrang sarap, yung kikilabutan ka lalo na sa crucial shots tapos pumapasok. Kikilabutan ka. Pero we need to stick on the game. Kailangang mag-focus. Yun lang.”
(It feels really great because you know you have hecklers in the crowd. They’re stoked to cheer for their team. I got chills especially when crucial shots were falling. But we need to stay on the game. We need to focus. That’s it.)
Now heading to a winner-take-all Game 3 on Tuesday, November 19, Oftana feels pumped and raring to give Letran the fight of their lives.
“All-out na. All-out talaga, sobra,” he said. “Kung pipigain man namin, ibubuhos na namin dun.”
(All-out. We’ll really go all-out. If we’re to squeeze out everything, we’ll let it all out there.) – Rappler.com