San Miguel shoots lights out for grieving Arwind Santos

MANILA, Philippines – When Marcio Lassiter’s hands caught fire and he buried 5 triples in the third quarter alone, he offered all of them to a grieving teammate he considers family.

With every pass, shot, and rebound, Chris Ross had his hurting comrade in mind. And though he sat on the bench and missed his third game in a row, reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo kept his fellow MVP in his thoughts.

The San Miguel Beermen came out with a certain kind of fire Sunday, March 27 as they dedicated their game against the Star Hotshots to an anguished Arwind Santos, whose mother died last week.

“This game was for Arwind,” said head coach Leo Austria to start his post-game press conference following the 117-98 blowout in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. “We want to support kung ano mang meron siyang nararamdaman ngayon (whatever it is he is feeling right now).”

Santos’ mother, Araceli, passed away on Sunday, March 20 just before the Holy Week break. The 34-year-old has since been excused from practices as he deals with losing one of his biggest supporters. 

Araceli was often in attendance for Santos’ games. She once collapsed during a game a year ago after her nose started to bleed and she hyperventilated. Santos' wife, Ivette, confirmed then that Araceli was dealing with asthma-related problems. 

“The day before the game, after practice, coach told us to dedicate this game for Arwind and his family,” said Fajardo, who last spoke to Santos on Tuesday, in Filipino. 

Nung pumunta kami doon parang mas pumayat pa si Arwind, walang tulog, puyat. Nakakaawa lang. Sobrang depressed niya (When we visited, Arwind grew skinnier, he had little sleep. I felt bad for him. He’s very depressed).”

@cmross6 thank you and to the rest of the team. Good job! You all make me and my mama so proud! — arwind santos (@arwindsotnas) March 27, 2016

Lassiter, who finished with 25 points and had a total of 6 3-pointers, made the conscious effort to “give it all” they had.

“We had so much fight and we wanted to pour our hearts out for him because he’s going through a very, very hard time. We definitely give this game to Arwind Santos,” he said.

“We miss him so much. And he’s really going through a hard time, it’s not very easy to cope and to go through these kinds of things and really, life is, you never know what can happen.

“We’re really here for him. We just want to say we love him and as a family we just want to tell him we’re always here for him.”

San Miguel Beer players try to comfort a visibly distraught Arwind Santos after his mother was stretchered off the court in March 2015. File Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

San Miguel Beer players try to comfort a visibly distraught Arwind Santos after his mother was stretchered off the court in March 2015.

File Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

Ross, who was a rebound shy of a triple-double with 11 points, 10 assists and 9 boards, shared how Santos kept doing his job as the Beermen’s team captain despite the pain he is going through.

Santos made a phone call to Ross the night before Sunday’s game asking how the team was doing sans an injured Fajardo.

“I told him: ‘Don’t worry about it man, we’ll be fine, we’ll take care of business. Just take care of home and take care of your family, stay there as long as you want. We all understand what you’re going through,’” Ross shared.

“Obviously we want to win to help him put a smile on his face because this is his life as well as his mom, she was one of our biggest fans. Just us going out there playing hard for her and for him, it’s the best thing we can do for him and his family.”

Ross also recalled how San Miguel has been a place of comfort and solace for members of the team who have lost loved ones, including himself when his grandfather died recently and Alex Cabagnot for his grandmother.

“Tragedy brings us closer,” he said. “We like to think of ourselves as a family because honestly we see each other more than our families.”

Import Tyler Wilkerson was likewise huge for San Miguel with 8 treys for 44 points to go with 17 rebounds, as the Beermen, who are chasing their third straight title, improved to 5-2. – Rappler.com