After nearly three months, College of St. Benilde coach Gabby Velasco finally had a chance to enter the press room of The Arena on Friday afternoon.
“Ganito pala ang press room. Ganito pala ang itsura ng press room?” he marveled, drawing laughters from sports scribes.
Velasco, 55, immediately relished a rare opportunity to grace the customary post-match interview for winning coaches and that’s enough to keep himself dreaming for more chances moving forward.
Saving its best for last, St. Benilde stunned Lyceum 65-61 and avoided the ignominy of ending up with a winless campaign in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tournament at the San Juan City-based venue.
“This is an emotional win for us, not only for me, but for everybody as well,” admitted Velasco, who’s trying to fight back his emotions as the Blazers finally basked in the glow of a breakthrough victory after enduring a spate of sorry misses and painful losses in their first 17 matches.
“We’ve been waiting for this day to come, but at least on our final game, we’re able to salvage one.”
With Fil-Am forward Fons Saavedra the only graduating player in the fold, the Blazers should come back with a solid core, built around athletic Yankie Haruna, big man Christian Fajarito, gunner Carlo Young and Edward Dixon, next year.
Velasco admitted the pains that the young Blazers endured this year could only make them stay together and perform better collectively.
“The effort of the boys was really there all throughout the season. My motivation is not only the win, but we’re also looking for the effort. This is part of our growing up, part of our maturity,” he stressed.
While their long-desired victory came at the very end, Velasco doesn’t mind.
“Kahit isang panalo, the celebration and ‘yung feeling namin parang nag-champion kami. Malaking boost ito sa morale ng team looking forward sa future. ‘Yun ang objective namin today—end it on a positive note,” he said.
Velasco added he also felt the Blazers started to question themselves and the team’s system when the losses started piling up. But those trials made him a better coach—and a father too.
“This is basketball, but for us this is life,” he said. “There were moments where we felt we didn’t fight until the end. We quit, we stopped, we got discouraged. After the game, we talk to them, we evaluate them, scold them. Mga anak namin yang mga ‘yan.
“They’re still young so we have to guide them, mold them, teach them values. What do we do when adversities like this happen? We try to encourage them, teach them, do something. You have to move forward. You have to strive, get up, move forward. Hopefully, mayroong mga positive impact sa mga buhay ng mga players namin ito.”
Confident that they have a bright future ahead, Velasco is already excited to help the Blazers enjoy a winning feeling for a longer time.
“Hopefully, maging maganda ang future namin and we will apply whatever we learned from this season,” he concluded. – By Jerome Lagunzad