While all of San Beda players and their faithful basked in the glow of the Red Lions’ triumphant return back to the top in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney on Tuesday night, coach Jamike Jarin stayed at the sidelines of the Mall of Asia Arena court holding a plastic bottle of mineral water.
He certainly has all the reasons to celebrate a fitting redemption from a painful loss last year, but Jarin opted to keep himself away from the spotlight, underlining the Red Lions’ season-long mantra: Be selfless.
“The 15 young men, sila ang bida dito. They’re the ones who worked, they’re the ones who played, they’re the ones who won,” he said after San Beda kept its mastery over Arellano U with an 83-73 victory in Game 2 to complete a two-game sweep of their finals series and reclaim the throne which it yielded to archrival Letran last year.
While the Red Lions bagged their ninth overall title in the last 11 years and extended their unprecedented haul to 20 overall, Jarin clinched his first-ever title—as a head coach—in the collegiate ranks after steering the Ateneo Blue Eaglets to numerous titles in the UAAP juniors division.
And the road to the Promised Land didn’t start easy the way it ended with a flourish.
Already reeling from the graduation of their dreaded “Big 3” of Baser Amer, Art Dela Cruz and Nigerian import Ola Adeogun, the Red Lions suffered a big loss midway in their title campaign when Cameroon reinforcement Donald Tankoua went down with a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury, leaving Jarin without “the best center in the team.”
Unsung heroes, however, came from here and within as local big man Ben Adamos and back-up import Arnaud Noah, the eventual Finals MVP, stepped up to the plate, joining hands with San Beda’s reliables like Fil-Am Davon Potts, Javee Mocon, Robert Bolick, AC Soberano and skipper Dan Sara to complete an impressive title run.
“When everybody counted us out, when everybody wanted my head,” was the main force behind the Red Lions’ strong finish, according to Jarin.
“Maybe the loss of Donald, it was a wake-up call for all of us. Everybody stepped up, and all the boys just believed in themselves and just rallied behind Donald, rallied behind the coaches, and rallied behind San Beda.”
While he admitted it was “heartbreaking” that he failed to get the job done on his initial try, Jarin sounded pleased that he was able to redeem himself—and the Red Lions too.
“Winning it this year for your alma mater, it really feels good to win. It really feels good. It really feels good kasi you always want to give back. You always want to give back to your school,” he said. “It’s not how many times you fell down, it’s how you get up. And we got up.”
And Jarin could thank the latest batch of the Red Lions enough as they roared their way to their ultimate goal.
“Like what we said the entire season, this team was built to be selfless. Always for me, it’s always been my trademark, you use all your players, you give them the exposure, and after the season, you make a bond that will last forever, memories that will last forever,” he stressed. “So this is one for the books.” – By Jerome Lagunzad