Sorrow, heartache, heartbreak
ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 12, 2015 07:27 PM
Sayang. Sayang talaga. Nakakapanghinayang --- Pat Aquino
SINGAPORE -- Patrick Aquino stepped out of the court with sadness in his eyes.
He flashed a dry, sarcastic smile. Inside him emotions were ready to explode, tears were about to flow.
"I really don't know what happened," said Aquino after his Philippine squad absorbed a shock 56-61 setback to Indonesia to kiss its gold-medal chances goodbye in the women's basketball competition of the 28th Southeast Asian Games Friday at the OCBC Arena Hall 1 here.
"It was out worst shooting in the last three months. But I won't take it against my girls. I know everybody did their part. They played their hearts out. Unfortunately, we came out short."
A former star at the University of the Philippines, Aquino seemed destined to become a trail blazer.
He was part of the squad that drafted Asi Taulava in the defunct Philippine Basketball League, a small miracle that opened the doors wide open for other Filipino-American players to enter.
After his playing years, he shifted to coaching.
Again, he was the first man to set the trend.
He handled a Philippine squad that stood tall against other countries in the Fiba Asia U-16 Women's Tournament in Surat Thani, Thailand in 2009. Few years later, he led National University to the UAAP women's basketball crown after decades of dryspell.
So when the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas searched for a new women's coach, Aquino was on top of the list.
After all, the national team women's team has yet to win a crown in the SEA Games since joining the competition in 1977.
"I want to be the first coach to lead our women's team to the title," said Aquino days before the Nationals plunge into action. "This team is overflowing with talent. I wish sana makuha na natin ang gold this time."
The Nationals kicked off their campaign with a 57-62 loss to reigning champion Malaysia. The following day, they stormed back with a masterful 55-100 win over Vietnam followed by a 74-63 win over Malaysia to move two wins away from clinching the gold medal.
Then came Indonesia.
The Philippines led by as many as 12 in the first quarter, 21-9, until it suddenly went cold in the second and third periods, leading to a heart-crushing loss which Aquino didn't expect even in his wildest dream.
"Baka napagod na din sa mga sunod-sunod na laban. Madami kasi sa kanila may kanya-kanyang nararamdaman," said Aquino talking to a hadful of Filipino journalists in a dimly-lighted lighted hallway few meters away from the playing court.
"Sayang. Sayang talaga. Nakakapanghinayang."
Then, he excused himself and disappeared into a hallway leading to the exit.
He was gone.
And so is the country's chances to finally win a gold medal in women's basketball.