MANILA, Philippines – Until the very end, the La Salle Green Archers were right in the mix of keeping their UAAP Season 82 Final Four bid alive against the UP Fighting Maroons.
However, with 15 seconds left and the season on the line, scrappy guard Encho Serrano raced down the court off a rebound and wildly missed a banking layup that would have tied the game, 70-all.
In the end, Jun Manzo purposefully missed his second free throw off the duty foul with two seconds left as UP escaped with a 71-68 win, officially eliminating the Archers from contention.
Despite Serrano committing a season-costing error, team consultant Jermaine Byrd was not the least bit angry on his ward after the game.
"I'll never blame him. He's a scorer, he's our attacker," he said. "Although he might have missed the shot but I mean, that's his job. That's his role on the team."
"His role on the team is to score baskets and stay in attack mode. He just missed the shot."
Byrd then went a step further and instead heaped praises on the sophomore guard.
"He's been amazing since the moment I met him," he said. "I love coaching him. I love being in the gym with him, and I think the sky's the limit for him."
"I think he's only going to continue to get better once he heals up," he continued. "The kid was playing on one leg. The kid has a damn near broken ankle and fights with the big guys every game. He loves the school, he loves the community, and I love him."
Even in a loaded La Salle backcourt, Serrano has carved out a niche for himself as a reliable sixth man, averaging 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds on 40% shooting prior to the UP game.
Because of this, Byrd is hoping to guide Serrano to greater heights down the road, possibly starting next season with La Salle.
"He'll be great. I'm hoping that I get the opportunity to coach him for 2 to 3 more years," he said. "He is a superstar in the making. I have nothing bad to say about him. He's great. He gives me a 110% every game. I wouldn't change him for the world." – Rappler.com