San Beda coach Jamike Jarin carried the burden of disappointment on his shoulders for a year.
But when the first chance to celebrate his first collegiate title came, he shunned the spotlight, opting to give his players their shining moment as confetti fell on the middle of the court after San Beda clinched the NCAA crown with an 83-73 victory over Arellano yesterday at Mall of Asia Arena.
This was the coach epitomizing what he had been preaching his team all season long.
“Like what we said the entire season, this team was built to be selfless,” said Jarin, after the Red Lions completed a sweep of the Arellano Chiefs with the thrilling Game 2 victory, clinching a ninth title in 11 years and jacking up their league record to 20 crowns before a raucous crowd of 13,000.
“The 15 young men (on the team), they are the stars. They’re the ones who worked, they’re the ones who played, they’re the ones who won.”
Maligned by critics for using an extended rotation, Jarin got his vindication with a balanced attack—led by Arnold Noah’s 18 points and Dan Sara’s stellar playmaking down the stretch—that propelled them to what he described as their hardest win of the season.
“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. So this is one for the books. I’m very happy, God is good,” he said.
Reeling from a painful finals defeat, losing six starters to graduation and its best center to injury midway through the season, San Beda’s road back to the top had never been as difficult as this season.
“It was a heartbreaking loss last year,” he said, recalling the defeat to fierce rival Letran in three games last season.
“It took us a year to really get back here and along the way, I had all these young men. I’m just happy.”
The Red Lions took the Chiefs’ best punches in the first 37 minutes, before pulling away for good behind the energetic plays of Noah and outside sniping of Davon Potts and AC Soberano.
As the Chiefs came up with one empty possession after another, Potts and Soberano, just as they had done all season long, delivered the telling blows with their long-range sniping.
Potts poured all of his 10 points in the fourth period with his last field goal off a Noah assist turning out to be the dagger, 78-73, with 1:48 remaining.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is tweaking the selection process for the mythical five next season, after four foreign centers, led by back-to-back Most Valuable Player winner Allwell Oraeme of Mapua, made up this year’s list, joining point guard Jio Jalalon of Arellano.
Aside from the 6-foot-9 Oraeme, also making the mythical five this season were Perpetual Help’s Nigerian import Bright Akhuetie and Cameroonians Hamadou Laminou of Emilio Aguinaldo College and Donald Tankoua of San Beda.
Lyceum’s Mike Nzeusseu was also named the league’s top rookie.
NCAA Mancom chair Mari Lacson said the league will change the way the mythical five will be selected next season. The plan also includes having a separate award for the best import.