…they just win big in their last game.
Two hours before UP’s game against powerhouse UE last Sunday, I was fixing The Coach’s UP uniform, the last time for this year. He had just come in from his Air 21 work—yes, on a Sunday, my dear hardworking hubby—to pick up his stuff before running off to coach St Stephen in its game against Jubilee at 2:30 P.M.* UP’s game started at 4 P.M., which meant The Coach would miss a chunk of the UAAP action. It didn’t seem like such a good start.
Yet everything else conspired for UP to win its last game for Season 69.
UP played well, save for a few errant, ano-ba-yan!?! passes that curdle the blood when there were only a few precious minutes left and barely three points in the margin.
But UP led all the way. No deadlocks allowed.
Latecomer Magi Sison was such a delight. He’s just a kid at heart, really, a beanpole in big basketball shoes. And he grins when he dumps a shot or gets a rebound. That is basketball—it’s supposed to be enjoyed, too.
Marvin’s brilliance lasted until the end game, thankfully. Nestor’s on-court spills (the most I’ve seen in his games this season, and I've missed a few) didn’t spoil his showmanship, and the crowd loved him for it. Woody Co—my other favorite among the boys—has been consistently stepping up in defense and offense, working both sides of the floor. Quiet and unassuming, but deadly and intense. I love this kid.
Even the referees helped; they were calling out fouls which they would’ve ignored in the previous games. Gee, the calls were close to favoring UP: not that I would’ve wanted it that way, but, boy, was it a welcome change from being on the other side of the uneven stick. I could’ve sworn the refs did not allow the margin to breach the three-point mark.
Though Binondo heaped a margin of +8 points on UP, it turns out many more bet on UP. Still scratching my head on that one, but I figure it was because it was a no-bearing game for UE.
Whattaheck, I think even UE played in favor of UP. Custodio was a dismal, almost half-hearted shade of himself. Borboran and that other UE kid, whatzisname, didn’t play well either, prompting Coach Dindo Pumaren to put in his second-stringers.
Like we did. In fact all our players were given the chance to rule the court, and I thought, hey, that’s how it should be, at least in our last game and under the circumstances.
Did the fact that it was a non-bearing game for UE play any factor in our win? Well, so what if it did? A win is a win is a win. And if you saw UP’s side of the stadium erupt in a blazon of arms in the air, posters big and small, people standing on their seats, then you’d know how much this victory is sweeter, better, longed for, and earned.
It was a good sendoff for the graduating boys—Galen, Ira and Nestor. I will miss Galen the most, because he was so committed to the game, even in what is probably the shortest stint ever in amateur basketball (barely eight months). Such a loss that we would not see him blossom further, as I know he still can.
At the post-game dinner, the host Jerry Esquivel summed it best when he said that the gathering that night was a beraka, a Hebrew word that means, loosely, a celebration—for any occasion and for any blessing. He said the Jews hold a beraka to celebrate life or a birth, as they would to celebrate death. And so it was only right that the Maroons celebrated both its victories and its defeats.
Until next year, Maroons!
* The Coach won his fourth game against Jubilee. St Stephen now leads the tourney with Chiang Kai Shek at 4-0.