By WAYLON GALVEZ
Head coach TY Tang points to the knowledge he acquired from two venerable bench tacticians as the likely reason behind College of St. Benilde’s early rise in the 95th NCAA basketball tournament.
With the Blazers leading the standings with a 5-0 win-loss mark, Tang credits his former college mentor Franz Pumaren and Yeng Guiao at Rain or Shine in the PBA to his newfound success calling the shots for St. Benilde, the sister school of his alma mater La Salle.
“Not at all,” said Tang when asked if the Blazers’ showing has come as a complete surprise.
St. Benilde raced to their fifth straight win–their best since joining the NCAA in 1998–with an 82-77 conquest of Arellano on Tuesday at The Arena in San Juan.
Joining them on top are defending champion San Beda.
In winning over the Chiefs, Clement Leutcheu led the way with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Justin Gutang added 12, seven boards and two steals, in his first game back after missing the two last owing to a knee injury.
“I can’t really say where I’m leaning towards in terms of my philosophy as a coach but definitely all my coaches have influenced me in a way or the other in this game,” said Tang, who began coaching St. Benilde in 2017.
“I would say I’m confidently having my own identity as a coach as I continue to learn and grow every single day. Just keeping it open but also assertive when I have to,” he added.
In their first season under Tang, the Blazers finished the tournament with a 4-14 record. The following year, the team missed a playoff game for the last Final Four berth as it finished with a 10-8 card, half a game behind University of Perpetual Help’s 11-7 slate.
With St. Benilde beginning to show maturity, league observers see the Taft-based team making it to the playoffs.
“It’s really our goal to be able to compete at the highest level,” said Tang. “I’m happy that after all the years we’ve been working on the team physically, emotionally and mentally, we have all come to believe that we are capable of winning games.”
However, it remains to be seen if St. Benilde would hold up given the kind of opposition it will be up against soon.
This Friday, St. Benilde faces Lyceum and San Beda on Aug. 23 followed by Letran on Aug. 27 and Jose Rizal on Aug. 30.
“Now we have to remain focused at the task and take it a game at a time. Lock in the next few days and games and we’ll see how it goes,” added Tang.