Animus Part 2: Five Great Performances in La Salle Basketball
Contributed by Absolut Verde
SHAKE DOWN THE THUNDER
5. Ritualo 33, 1999
Allado, Aldeguer, Ritualo: they were called The Big Three, but in that second-round game against UST, he was The Available One. The rain fell and the streets were flooded that day, Aldeguer and Allado were stuck in Alabang. Even the Juniors defaulted their game. But we needed the win to ensure top spot in the Final Four. The rain stopped, Ritualo didn’t.
4. Araña’s jiggy, 2005
The moment that turns people into Pharisees. It lasts two seconds during a lull in a won game against the Auld Enemy, a lull in his guard’s defence, paused with the ball in one hand, and suddenly he’s swept along by the irresistible backbeat of Go, La Salle! Go, Go, La Salle! rocking Araneta Coliseum. I’ve often wondered coming home from games knackered and all sung out, whether any of the players can feel what we feel when they’re supposed to be totally focused on the play, whether anything we do can ever move them during a game, or whether they could ever have as much fun as we in the stands. And then my finger starts to wiggle.
3. Eighteen points, five minutes, 2002
What was at stake? Our 8-0 record at that point in the season, and a string of victories against UST that would stretch five more years. Mike Cortez didn’t turn the screws until the second half, after which he scored 20 and volleyball-spiked Cyrus Baguio’s last-second attempt at winning it outright. Joseph Yeo and Mika Vainio did the rest in overtime. Eighteen points scored in the time it took to write this.
2. Trece de Agosto, 1988
We freshmen were lucky – a first La Salle-Ateneo game, a first against the defending champions, a win. For upperclassmen, it had been a fifth time of asking. But we were young and foolish, and walked by sight. So flushed and giddy we were in our “Eagle Season Open” shirts that night in Syfu’s parking lot, recounting the strength of George Peralta and the cunning of Lincoln Lim, we could not have known the following: that it would all end in tears eight weeks later, with Gilbert Reyes Jr. twisting a reverse at the baseline at the end of one game and Dindo Pumaren nearly breaking down at the free throw line as he scored his last futile points for La Salle at the end of the next. Never mind that no other team had ever gone from entrants to cellar-dwellers to Finalists in three years. It was Dindo Pumaren’s final season for the Green Archers, our first full season supporting live, and it ended for him and for us in the most cruel, dispiriting way.
We could not have known the following: that an hour after the dugout had been cleared, the rookie Zandro Limpot Jr. sat sobbing alone in a corner and silently swore he would never again allow such a thing happen to his Green Archers team. We were young and foolish and walked by sight, not by faith.
1. One is greater than 14, 2007
Beaten in 2005 and shamed in 2006, recruitment plans derailed, rusty from a year’s suspension and mangled by a fearsome Dindo Pumaren-coached UE in the first round. Iffy performances all season, including a first loss to UST in eight years, and three losses to Ateneo. For UE, a clean sweep of the double elimination rounds, a feat not witnessed in the league for nearly 15 years. Franz Pumaren had engineered a four-peat and a fifth championship before, and great coaches had been vanquished. Could he do it against one with his own DNA?
But first there was the matter of a step-ladder semifinals against Ateneo. Casio and Maierhofer were known quantities, so out came his secret weapons: two players that had known only adversity and inconsistency their entire UAAP careers. Tyrone Tang and Pocholo Villanueva would Daniel-san their way past Ateneo in two games, and Pumaren would quip, Miyagi-like, that “sometimes two is greater than three.”
But the real mystical math was still to come. Game 1 of the Finals started 11-0 to UE and ended 64-63 to La Salle, with Mark Borboran missing a last-gasp three. The bubble had burst, the streak had ended, and UE was never the same after. And La Salle? It had Kish Co waiting for Game 2, and an inkling that sometimes one is greater than fourteen.