If there’s a silver lining to the 'larong labas' controversy involving San Beda Ryusei Koga that has caused the Red Lions guard to miss the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s that his absence has allowed seldom-used players an opportunity to shine.
Roldan Sara has particularly stepped up in the absence of Koga, who didn’t suit up in the semifinals against University of Perpetual Help last Thursday after the league deferred the probe into the allegation that he played in another league while the NCAA was ongoing.
Sara actually started to make his presence felt in the Lions’ penultimate game in the elimination round against Letran on October 21 when the 20-year-old pride of Cagayan de Oro City scored seven points in just 11 minutes to help the Lions eke out a 76-72 overtime win.
The third-string combo guard then was given his first starting role of the season in the Lions’ final game of the eliminations versus Arellano and he repaid coach Boyet Fernandez’s faith by firing 10 points, built on three triples, on top of two boards, and one assist in 21 minutes.
“If one man gets down, one has to pick it up, because we’re brothers here,” Sara said in a chat with Spin.ph.
Sara continued his sterling effort in the Final Four against the Altas when he tallied nine points on three triples, two assists in 21 minutes as a starter again.
He also did a remarkable defensive job on Juneric Baloria, the eventual Rookie of the Year winner who missed all his seven attempts and churned out all his six points from the foul line in 27 minutes.
A former Red Cub who made one stop at La Salle before returning to his alma mater, Sara is just making the most of his second stay with San Beda.
“Every time coach puts me in, I just try to step up,” Sara said in the post-game conference. “I don’t think of anything. I just play with my heart.”
Sara is expected to provide quality minutes in the Finals when the Lions meet archrival Letran, starting with Game One on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena.