MANILA, Philippines—Jermaine Byrd wiped away tears as he and the rest of La Salle's coaching staff sang the school hymn, following another tough game in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament.
The Green Archers nearly squandered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against University of Santo Tomas, with Rhenz Abando rallying the Growling Tigers in the final minute. Fortunately for La Salle, Abando's last shot of the game was a two-pointer, with the UST player stepping on the line as he put up his shot.
Byrd, La Salle's active consultant, was overcome with emotion as his team celebrated an 80-79 win, victory that kept the Green Archers in the hunt for a spot in the Final 4. His players surrounded him, comforting the mentor after the final buzzer.
"Kinda feel a lot of emotions. It’s a hard-fought win. That's really all I can say. Incredible," Byrd said after the game, which gave La Salle an even 6-6 record heading into their final two games of the elimination round.
Byrd declined to explain why he teared up, only hinting at "a little adversity" that La Salle went through.
"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," he said.
"We had a little adversity, a little team adversity that I won’t get to," he added. "But again, I’m proud of my team. I’m proud how we stuck together."
"So it’s just a little emotion that kinda hit me."
While he refused to expound on, Byrd did come to the defense of the La Salle players, stressing that they are "just kids."
"Sometimes, I think as adults we wanna crucify these kids for being kids," he said. "So, at the end of the day, that was what that was about."
With a season sweep of UST now in the books, all Byrd wants is for La Salle to move forward and focus on its next game. The Green Archers are still half a game behind UST and Far Eastern University, which are in joint third in the league standings.
La Salle still has games against University of the Philippines and Adamson on the horizon, and both games are "must win" affairs for the Taft-based squad.
"We have two more games, and we'll compete," Byrd said.
"We'll be ready for UP, and we're looking forward to it."
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