Despite losing to the still-undefeated LPU Pirates last Thursday, the EAC Generals are not letting go of their goal of a Final Four finish in NCAA Season 93. After all, the Generals lost by just four points, and to a team that other coaches and players are calling “robots” and “halimaw.” (For comparison, the defending champs’ San Beda Red Lions lost by five.)
It may not have been the home-court victory the Generals wanted, but they’re pleased to have surprised those who counted them out following center Hamadou Laminou’s ACL injury last week.
“Never pumasok sa isip namin na hindi namin kaya,” says veteran Francis Munsayac. “Oo, sobrang laki ng nawala na kailangan i-fill in ng mga teammates namin. Pero Laminou serves as our motivation to play great and win games for him.” Munsayac posted a team photo after the game—all smiles, and they had photoshopped Laminou dunking in the background.
Photo from Francis Munsayac’s Facebook page
“Now ang plan namin is not just to be part of the Final Four, ang goal namin now is to be in third spot,” adds Munsayac. “It will be tough, but we will not back down.”
The Generals’ rebuild began last year with the hiring of Ariel Sison as head coach. He was an irregularity in a league dominated by former players like Atoy Co and career coaches like Jamike Jarin. Sison spent over 20 years in academia, held a PhD in information technology, and had been dean of EAC’s Information Technology department for eight years. But he had also coached EAC’s juniors team into perennial Final Four contenders.
Sison thinks his background makes him a good fit with struggling teams. “Kapag teacher ka, alam mong kahit bagsak ‘yung estudyante ngayon, kapag nag-aral, papasa ‘yan,” he explains.
“Last year pa namin sinasabing sa Season 93 na kami magfa-Final Four,” adds Sison. “Itutuloy namin ‘yun.”
Like LPU’s Topex Robinson, Sison emphasized a growth mindset and open communication with the players, instituting post-game open forums for the team which once shied away from expressing emotion. His culture revamp of the Generals may not be drastic as Robinson’s total 180, but it nevertheless has begun to pay off for the Generals.
Sidney Onwubere, who at one point held rep as a hothead, matured into the natural candidate for team captain—speaking with authority in the dugout, and improving in every stat from his performance last year. The bench has also improved, with Raymund Pascua stepping up in their win against Mapua, and Juju Bautista to defeat the Arellano Chiefs.
Even now, morale remains at a high point for the Generals, who believe that their close loss against the Pirates still counts towards momentum for their remaining first-round bouts against JRU, SSCR, and UPHSD.
“I’ve worked too hard and too long to let anything stand in the way of my goals,” Munsayac posted. “I will not let my teammates down, and I will not let myself down. Onto the next one, will bounce back for sure.”