IT was a loss so painful for University of Santo Tomas coach Pido Jarencio that he declined interviews with the media, leaving deputy Estong Ballesteros to explain the bizarre events that led to the Tigers’s heartbreaking loss in the championship game of the UAAP.
Ballesteros couldn’t help but feel sorry for Jarencio, the architect of UST’s late run to reach the Finals as a fourth-seeded team.
“Masakit para sa kanila (players) pero lalo na kay coach Pido. Dream come true sana ’yun,” Ballesteros said.
“Medyo masama ‘yung nangyari sa amin,” he added. “Hindi namin matanggap.”
“Breaks of the game ang nangyari.”
Ballesteros said Jarencio could only muster a few words in the dugout.
“Sabi lang namin, binigay naman nila ’yung best nila, wala na tayong magagawa. Bawi na lang next year,” he said.
Online discussions criticized the final plays of the Tigers in both regulation and overtime - why it was struggling Aljon Mariano who took the potential game-winner; why top gunner Jeric Teng, who had 24 points, was the one tasked to inbound the ball with two seconds remaining in the extra period.
Ballesteros said all plays were by design, only these didn’t turn out the way they want it to be.
“Ang play talaga doon kay Karim (Abdul), ’yung six seconds (regulation). Sabi ni Karim na ibigay sa kanya ’yung bola, manalo matalo. Pero na-deny si Karim kaya si Aljon ang kumuha,” said Ballesteros.
On the Teng inbounds pass, Ballesteros said: “Sugal na rin ‘yun, sabi ni coach na si Jeric talaga ang mag-i-inbound.”
The Tigers’ failure has become well-documented especially after they failed to protect a 15-point lead in the third quarter as La Salle came storming back.
UST was still very much in the game during the extra period as it even took a 69-67 lead on a Teng turnaround fadeaway with 34 seconds to play.
But Mariano committed a careless turnover with the Tigers holding a one-point lead, leading to Almond Vosotros converting the go-ahead jumper with 19.7 seconds for La Salle, 70-69.
“Lahat emotional kasi andoon na yung panalo,” said Ballesteros. “Nasa kamay na namin pero pinakawalan pa namin.”
Nevertheless, Ballesteros said he couldn’t ask for more from his players, most especially from Teng.
“Binuhos niya lahat ’yung sa last game. This season, binigay niya lahat. Suwerte kami na may ganung player. Sana lahat ng players ganun. Talagang hindi magpapatalo sa dulo,” Ballesteros said.