by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News
LANCASTER, CA — A historic regular season for a Filipino basketball coach has come to an end with a runner-up trophy.
Leo Balayon coached the Bethesda University Flames, and finished the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference in second place.
The Davao-born and raised Balayon won PCAC coach-of-the-week honors four times during the season, while the team racked up several all-conference awards, including a most valuable player.
In Balayon’s 2nd season, the 16-and-10 regular season record is the best in the small school’s history, and received a top-ten ranking in the National Christian College Athletic Association.
“It’s really big for the program,” said Balayon. “We haven’t had a winning season, ever since the inception of the program. So this year was the first time we had a winning record, by winning over 500. Being in the championship game of our conference… it’s been a really good season. We had a win over the Division One opponent; that was historical. My only regret is we planned and prepared for this, and we just couldn’t pull it off.”
The team’s regular season came to a bitter end, losing to Life Pacific University 84-to-58 in the finals of the two-day conference tournament.
Despite hustle plays, the Flames could not keep up with the Warriors’ hot shooting.
“I guess we were nervous. The program itself has never been in a winning situation, so this is the first time for the players to be on a stage where you’re fighting for a championship,” Balayon said regretfully. “I didn’t expect us to be like that today. It’s my job to recover us in the game. I guess I didn’t do that.”
But the season may not be over, and the team’s accomplishments could bring them to an even bigger stage.
Balayon and the Flames are waiting to see if they will be invited into the National Christian College Athletic Association Tournament in Indiana.
There are eight spots in the tournament, with 6 reserved for division winners.
Bethesda was ranked number 10 in the country, giving them a chance to still be invited.
Basketball does not stop at Bethesda. Many of the players will be returning next year, while Coach Leo will hit the recruitment trail hoping to bring in some fresh talent.