MANILA, Philippines – The La Salle Green Archers escaped the UST Growling Tigers by the skin of their teeth with a one-point win, 80-79, as Rhenz Abando’s late-game eruption just fell short on Wednesday, October 23.
Gunning to clinch a UAAP Season 82 Final Four berth at the expense of the Archers, the Tigers roared from 9 points down in the final 30 seconds to nearly steal the victory. (READ: La Salle survives wild finish vs UST)
However, it was not meant to be as Abando’s last-second long bomb that would have sent the game to overtime was called a two-pointer after his right foot grazed the line in transition.
On the surface, such heart-stopping moments could have sufficiently explained why team consultant Jermaine Byrd and team leader Aljun Melecio were reduced to tears after escaping with the win.
But as Melecio explained after the game, their emotions stemmed from something deeper than a failed opposing comeback attempt on the hardwood.
“Maraming nangyari sa team this week,” he said without going to specifics. “Kahit nangyari lahat yun, maganda kung paano kami nag-react. Gusto ko talaga manalo this game kasi do-or-die na to sa amin.
“Against UST din so gusto ko lang din talaga manalo kay coach Aldin [Ayo],” he continued. “Kaya nag-usap din kami after e, sabi niya, ‘Anyare sa’yo?’ Sabi ko, coach, gusto ko lang talaga manalo.”
(A lot of stuff happened to the team this week. But even after all that, it’s great how we reacted to the situation. I really wanted to win this game because it’s like a do-or-die for us. It’s also against UST so I really just wanted to win against coach Aldin. When we talked afterwards, he asked, ‘What happened to you?’ I just said, coach, I just want to win.)
Likewise, Byrd did not even want to talk about the undisclosed issues, but nevertheless explained what the cardiac win meant to them.
“To be honest I would rather not say,” he said. “This is a great league, great team, lot of fans are very supportive. They’re used to winning championships. They expect for this thing to happen overnight. We had a little of adversity, a little team adversity that I won’t get into. But again, I’m proud of my team. I’m proud how we stuck together.”
“So it’s just a little emotion that kinda hit me. It’s not about wins and losses,” Byrd continued. “These are student-athletes. They’re not professionals yet, they’re just kids. Sometimes I think as adults we wanna crucify these kids for being kids. So at the end of the day that was what that was about.”
Even prior to these issues, La Salle is already no stranger to facing adversities this season.
From being as far down as 7th place in the first round standings, the Archers are now back in the thick of contention for a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four with two games left in their schedule.
For them, issues are just par for the course at this point.
“Kinda feel a lot of emotions,” Byrd said. “It’s a hard-fought win. That’s really all I can say. Incredible. I’m proud of my guys, I’m proud they stuck together.” – Rappler.com
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