St. Benilde Blazers can't shake off ‘Heartbreak Kids’ tag as they fall just short of the semifinals
Coach Gabby Velasco and the CSB Blazers move tantalizingly close to a semifinal stint, only to fade down the stretch. Jerome Ascano

AND you thought they’re no longer the heartbreak kids of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Although they have moved up several notches from cellar-dwellers to semifinal contenders, College of St. Benilde still kept the unenviable tag this season as the Blazers fell short of a shot at a Final Four berth following a heartbreaking 64-57 loss to Letran on Wednesday.

Next to last place in the previous season, the Blazers had a chance to move closer to a first semifinal appearance in 12 years but failed to play with determination early on and came up empty handed.

“I guess this was not meant for us,” said Blazers coach Gabby Velasco, who has six graduating players including PBA-bound Mark Romero and Paolo Taha. “Everyone was hurt.”

In a must-win battle against a team already out of contention, it was the Knights who seemed to play with more urgency as they built an early lead and never looked back.

“I didn’t like the way we started,” Velasco said. “We cannot play catch-up ballgame all the time.”

“They were able to build momentum,” he added of the Knights. “And when we tried to catch up and play our game, it was too late for us. We were very careless with the ball.”

Velasco could already see his wards’ lackluster showing in training on Tuesday.

“In practice, I didn’t see the fire in my team. I was trying to push and remind them. Unfortunately, they were so complacent.”

Still, the Blazers finished the season with the best win-loss record in years at 11-7.

“But I must say this is still an achievement,” Velasco said. A few expected that we would reach this far.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos