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Blazers beaten but unbowed

- Abac Cordero () - September 22, 2002 - 12:00am
As the San Sebastian Stags wildly whooped it up at center court, celebrating their victory amid the pouring confetti and their shrieking fans, the St. Benilde Blazers gingerly trooped to their dugout — bruised, battered, beaten and yet, unbowed.

Starting guard Anthony Coching was carried off the court on a stretcher after getting accidentally kicked near the groin by a driving opponent in the dying seconds while league MVP Sunday Salvacion, so exhausted and so frustrated, limped out with his right leg wrapped in ice.

"In my book, these guys are the champions. They tried so hard even though the game was already out of reach," St. Benilde coach Dong Vergaire said inside the dimly lit dugout, almost an hour after San Sebastian ran away with an 83-69 victory and their second straight NCAA seniors’ crown.

A lot of tears were shed inside the St. Benilde dugout, too — from the players to the team and school officials.

"Of course, this is very emotional for us. Everybody, everyone (just cried). I just told the boys to be strong, We need to be strong because defeats like this only make you a better person," said Vergaire before packing up and joining the rest of the team in a quick visit of the school chapel.

Four senior members of this year’s squad — Elvis Tolentino, Dino Perlas, Verman Reyes and Sonny Castro — won’t be back next year while Salvacion still has one playing year left but might just be lured into joining the Philippine Basketball Association draft next year.

Everything is uncertain, though, regarding Salvacion’s next move, but Vergaire vowed to be back and help the Blazers regain the title they won — over the Stags — in 2000.

"Of course I’ll be back," he said, before taking his hat off to San Sebastian coach Turo Valenzona and his players for a job well done.

"It was a good fight between both teams but isa lang ang kailangan manalo. I have to give it to San Sebastian. They worked hard for it. They played a very good game. An excellent game," he said. "But we have nothing to be ashamed of, too.

ANTHONY COCHING AS THE SAN SEBASTIAN STAGS DINO PERLAS DONG VERGAIRE ELVIS TOLENTINO PHILIPPINE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION SALVACION SAN SEBASTIAN ST. BENILDE ST. BENILDE BLAZERS
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