FROM hero to zero.
Fons Saavedra’s transformation came just a second apart as College of St. Benilde lost a close one against three-time defending champion San Beda, 70-71, in a thrilling opener to Season 89 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
It was Saavedra who buried a pressure-packed left-wing triple that gave the Blazers their first lead of the game at 70-69 in the final 4.7 seconds of a showdown where they trailed by as many as 13 points early in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, it was also the Filipino-foreign rookie forward who cost the Taft-based squad the game.
Saavedra lost his man, Art dela Cruz, in a series of picks and allowed him to convert an alley-oop play in the game’s final possession that enabled the Lions to escape with the pulsating win.
“I lost us the game,” Saavedra admitted to Spin.ph shortly after. “It was like my shot kind of went out.”
“Honestly, I was trying to help Luis (Sinco), because there was a back pick, and then I got caught by another pick and I didn’t even see it coming. It just happened so quickly,” added Saavedra, whose mother is Filipino-Colombian and his father a Mexican-Spanish.
“That was a big mistake on us defensively,” Blazers coach Gabby Velasco said later. “The idea was to get the ball sana closer to the midline. Unfortunately, hindi na-cover. Si Luis stuck to his man and wasn’t able to cover the back of Saavedra.”
Nonetheless, the rookie stuck to the positives about the end result.
“This is a confidence booster even though we lost. I feel like a lot of teams are watching us now. They’re afraid of us. They saw we almost took Beda down. We can take anyone.”