MANILA, Philippines – National University (NU) head coach Jamike Jarin could only crack some jokes after his Bulldogs suffered yet another heartbreaking loss in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament on Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm headed to Heart Center right now," Jarin told reporters after the Bulldogs bowed to De La Salle University, 83-82. "I'm having a heart attack right now. I think I'm having a stroke."
It had been another painful loss for NU, which trailed by as much as 19 points in the game, and were down by 14 points in the final quarter. But behind John Lloyd Clemente and Shaun Ildefonso, they clawed their way back and even took an 82-81 lead off Ildefonso's triple with 25 seconds left.
La Salle showed its poise in the clutch, however, with Aljun Melecio assisting Kurt Lojera for the go-ahead basket with 14 seconds left. NU still had a chance, but Ildefonso's triple was off the mark, and time expired as both squads struggled to gain control of the ball.
"That's the way the ball bounces, can't win 'em all. Heartbreaking for everybody, especially to us," said Jarin.
It was the second straight game that NU lost in gutting fashion. Last weekend, they were on the receiving end of a buzzer-beating triple by Adamson's Lenda Douanga in overtime.
"I thank all the boys for playing their hearts out. We lost the game in the first quarter because we weren't able to really get a groove offensively and defensively," Jarin said.
"But kudos to our boys, that they fought tooth and nail and even got the lead and had the chance to win. Again the ball just didn't bounce the way we wanted it to be. So heartbreaking for us," he added.
Jarin did see some positive signs for NU, despite the loss. He was proud of how the Bulldogs refused to fold after going down big, and commended Ildefonso and Clemente for stepping up after their main gun, Dave Ildefonso, was held in check.
Shaun Ildefonso scored 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, and Clemente added 19 markers. Dave Ildefonso made only 4-of-15 shots for 8 points.
"If you look at it, there are better things to be thankful than to be sorry. Wala ka na ngang masasabi sa mga bata, they fought," said Jarin. "They fought tooth and nail."
"Sa ibang teams 'yan, just on to the next game," he pointed out. "But we stayed together, and I'm just happy."
"I'm happy how we performed, especially in the second half, but of course you're disappointed with the result."
Jarin can only hope that the Bulldogs will start to get the breaks sooner rather than later, as they fell to 0-2 in the season with a showdown against University of Santo Tomas on the horizon.
"The harder you work, the luckier you get," he said. "So, we cannot just rely on luck. We have to keep on working hard."
"We could have been 2-0, if you look at it," he added. "We're one rebound away, another rebound away from getting our win. We'll continue to grind it out."
"I believe in this group of young men, and we'll continue to fight and to get better."
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