De La Salle University active consultant Jermaine Byrd said internal problems made him emotional after the Green Archers pulled off a slim 80-79 win against the gritty University of Santo Tomas (UST) to boost its Final Four bid in Season 82 University Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday night.
Byrd, who was hired this season, was seen crying as the buzzer sounded at the Araneta Coliseum as La Salle held off UST’s fightback from a nine-point deficit led by recruit Rhenz Abando in the closing seconds.
“To be honest, I would rather not say. This is a great league, great team, a lot of fans are very supportive. They’re used to winning championships. They expect this thing to happen overnight. We had a little adversity, a little team adversity that I won’t get to,” explained the American coach.
“It’s just a little emotion that kinda hit me. It’s not about wins and losses. These are student-athletes. They’re not professionals yet, they’re just kids. As adults, we wanna crucify these kids for being kids,” he added.
La Salle led by as high as 12 points, 69-57, behind Jamie Malonzo and Brandon Bates in the fourth quarter and was still ahead, 80-71, in the dying minutes until prized forward Abando ignited a late explosion for UST.
Abando hit two triples to push the Tigers within 77-80 with 10.9 seconds remaining, then stole Andrei Caracut’s pass and sank a desperation jumper for the tie with 1.5 ticks left.
Abando’s shot was ruled a two-pointer as he was seen stepping on the three-point line following video reviews before Caracut made a smart play off an inbound to preserve the 80-79 result.
The win hiked La Salle’s record to 6-6 at No. 5, keeping the Archers’ bid of returning to the Final Four alive after missing it out last season.
The Taft-based team also remained on the hunt for the second spot that guarantees the remaining twice-to-beat advantage.