THE pain Tony Dela Cruz had to endure could have been too much, that the longtime Alaska team captain was reduced to tears by the end of this epic finals for the PBA Philippine Cup championship on Wednesday night.
Yes, even real men cry.
With towel draped over his head, the veteran forward wept unabashedly at the sidelines as the vanquished Aces waited for what seemed to be an eternity to receive the runner-up trophy shortly after the San Miguel Beermen retained the all-Filipino title behind a historic 96-89 victory.
It was not only Dela Cruz who was left in tears, but also teammates Chris Banchero, RJ Jazul, Rome Dela Rosa, Samigue Eman, and Vic Manuel, the thought of almost being there and yet coming up short too much to bear.
“It was tough, a tough loss to handle,” Dela Cruz, now composed, intimated to Spin.ph as he made his way out of the gloomy Alaska dugout.
Two weeks ago, Alaska was on the verge of finally winning its first Philippine Cup crown in 16 years. And yet, the Aces ended up on the wrong side of history when the team became the first franchise in both the PBA and NBA to lose a championship despite a commanding 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.
“This is a tough one, it’s gonna hurt for I don’t know how long,” said Banchero as he tried to keep his emotions in check. “I don’t know what happened.”
But the warriors that they are, both Dela Cruz, 37 and Banchero, 27, said the experience – heartbreaking as it may be – will only toughen the team as it begins another title bid in the Commissioner’s Cup starting on February 10.
“We learned a lot from this and I know the experience will only make the team even stronger,” said Dela Cruz.
“We’re gonna bounce back. That’s the type of team that we are,” Banchero stressed.
“We’ll take some time off, get a little rest, and then get right back at it,” added the Alaska sophomore, who, somehow, finally managed to put a smile on his face.
When teased about it, Banchero curtly replied, “That’s all I can do right now.”