History repeats itself, the cliche goes. After four games in the Cesafi Finals, it’s two-all. Last year, the ending reached Game 5. That was October 9. Today — 10-3-2013 — it’s happening once more: UV-SWU in one game that will end Season XIII.
The funny thing is, Cebu is the same as Manila. While Cesafi is contesting the final, the UAAP best-of-three is being played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. And, if you examine the four squads involved, they’ve got something in common: La Salle and UV are color green; UST and SWU are color gold. With the UAAP, it’s their 76th season (ours is the 13th — but prior to that we had the CAAA). Another difference: our Finals is best-of-five while theirs, surprisingly, is a short 2-out-of-3. Which teams will win the gold? Tan-awon nato. Abangan.
LAST YEAR. If you forgot what transpired in the 2012 version of Game 5, it was the most improbable of victories. Against the nine-time champions, SWU was down by 18 points with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter. Second by second, John Pajantoy and his teammates chipped at the lead while UV played “not to lose.” Instead of continuing to attack, UV retreated, wanting to run the clock.
73-72. That was the final score last year; winner: Southwestern. “I’ve been through many comebacks before but this one is extra special. Historic,” coach Yayoy Alcoseba said. Felix “Boy” Tiukinhoy, the commissioner of Cesafi, ranked that game a “Perfect 10.”
SAMSAM. One person who recalls that moment is Gerald Anthony Gullas. How one year changes a man. Twelve months ago, Samsam Gullas was the UV Team Manager. Now, he’s the youngest congressman of our nation.
“We know we have to lay it all on the table and finish what we should have finished in Game 5 of last year,” said the 28-year-old Gullas, just hours after their Game 4 victory last Tuesday.
I asked Mr. Gullas what he discussed with the team after that double overtime Sunday night win in Game 3. “I told them they weren’t playing like they wanted to win the championship,” said Gullas. “They didn’t play with heart and with pride that a Visayanian is known for.”
Getting angry. Being brutally honest. Samsam continued, “It seemed like SWU was hungrier than us. They always got the offensive rebounds; we missed our free throws and played with no intensity on defense.
“I told them I saw a bit of that in Game 3 in the final 5 minutes and both overtimes and I would want to see it in Game 4. I challenged Mike (Nzeusseu) to minimize the offensive rebounds of Sanjo and asked Wowie to show me everything that made him the rookie MVP last year.”
With these tough words from their young leader, the Lancers pierced the slithery Cobras’ game and won their fourth encounter, 71-66.
“I’m so proud of them cause they rose to the challenge,” Gullas said. “I’m so proud of my veterans Abad and Arong and my rookies as well, especially Codilla and Santillan.”
Looking ahead to their 4 p.m. game today, Rep. Gullas provided me with words that his players have to embrace in order to triumph: Passion. Intensity. Pride. “Most importantly,” he added, “the heart to come back and make history by not only winning our 10th championship but winning 3 straight games after losing I think 7 straight games to the Cobras since last year.”
For us, the fans, hasn’t this been a fun, this-is-what-we-want type of season? SWU glides through the preliminaries and coasts last weekend to a 14-0 scorecard. UV struggles and is submerged in a 0-2 hole. But then… after two overtime extensions last Sunday, it’s the opposite now: SWU has lost two straight. It’s just fitting that the season ends — like the Miami Heat did last June — with one final game.
“The final game is finally here,” Gullas said. “It all ends today. I’m just hoping and praying that we will come out on top this year. I’m going to tell my players that we should win this for my grandmother who will be celebrating her birthday on October 4.”
Congressman (Samsam) or Provincial Board Member (Yayoy), Gullas or Aznar, green or gold, 9-time champion or defending champion… ?