Thursday, July 1, 2010


IT HAS BEEN THIRTY-five years since I played my first basketball game. It was just a pick-up game of three a side. A one goal affair. Then and there, I sprained my middle finger. I was a fourth grader. Nine years later, I played my first collegiate varsity game.

I suited up for the “new” Cebu State College of Science and Technology (CSCST) Builders in 1983 in the now-defunct Cebu Amateur Athletic Association (CAAA)1. Previously, this team was known as the Cebu School of Arts and Trades (CSAT) Builders and it languished always at the cellar. A favorite whipping boy!

The CAAA basketball league consisted of Cebu's cream of colleges and universities like the University of Visayas (UV) Green Lancers, the Cebu Central College (CCC) Executives2, the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) Jaguars, the Cebu Institute of Technology (CIT) Wildcats, the University of San Carlos (USC) Warriors, the University of Southern Philippines (USP) Black Panthers and the Cebu Technical School (CTS) Scanners.

In that year, the Green Lancers were the powerhouse. Their lineup then could beat any collegiate team in the country. They have with them burly centers Anthony Mendoza and Christopher Amomonpon; guards Alfonso Solis, Boy Cabahug and former USC Warriors ace Jerry Aratan; forwards Godo Gonzaga, Stevenson Dajalos and Andrew Najarro. Their third five could beat our team handily even with eyes closed.

The Executives came next with names like Edmund Navales, George Bonsubre, Boyet Cortes and their peppery two-some of Lito Amaya and Opel Abellana. The Jaguars parade high-flying Jojo Lastimosa, Dondon Ampalayo and Zaldy Realubit. The Black Panthers have man-mountain Sinforoso Tamayo and guard Eddie Fuentes.

The Scanners hoped on sweet-shooting Ruel Gomez to tow their team. The Wildcats were a veteran and resilient lot and the Warriors were well-coached. Some of these names, eventually, would proudly play for the national team and in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) – Asia's first play-for-pay league.

Against those, only point guard Benjie Alcantara, old carry-over Rey Paclipan and me carry the cudgels for the Builders. The rest of the team were raw recruits coming from the intramural league. I am a natural swing man. I can play in the 2-3-4-5 positions and, since our team is short on ceiling, I was assigned the job of starting center. An undersized center. A ceremonial jump ball guy.

I could carry the ball on the floor well with either hand uncanny for guys my size and pop up respectable left-handed jumpers from all angles. Reverse lay-ups and twist-ball shots from underneath are part of my forte but I'm murderous during transition offense. I wore a number 5 in my jersey in honor of my idol – Ernesto Estrada – a former Green Lancer and a high-scoring pro who played with Royal Tru-Orange3 and the Toyota Tamaraws in the PBA.

My first game with the Builders was against the imposing CCC Executives on July 17, 1983 in front of a sparse crowd at the USC Gym in Sanciangko and Junquera streets. They scored the first six shots before we hit ours. At the five-minute mark, coach Jake Rojas of the Executives sued for time-out. When we came back we faced a different kind of team. They were all over the court double-teaming, triple-teaming, pressing and harassing us. It was difficult to maneuver around with all these yellow-shirted guys coming at you. It was an open full-court press!

Our coach, Manuel Cuenca, kept shuffling his players as fast as he could type letters in a typewriter to keep up with the pace that the Executives imposed upon us. They were better conditioned physically than us. A rest was a very welcome opportunity. The score: CCC – 28, CSCST – 7. Re-invigorated by the quick respite, my thoughts were now clear and I now have an idea how to break free from their stifling defense.

Once you dribble the ball they are on you quick and, before you know it, they have the ball with them and they score. Now, you catch the ball and make a quick pass to an open man and they changed directions quickly. It won't tire you out that way just making quick passes before they press on you but it would tire them out changing directions all the time. Soon enough, I was making long jumpers. The score: CCC -31, CSCST – 16. Coach Rojas sued for another time-out.

They changed to a half-court press and concentrated their focus on Benjie and me. I ran around trying to find picks to lose my shadow but they blocked every avenue I took. I couldn't take jumpers! Tired, I decided to stay at the baselines. Suddenly, I could pluck offensive rebounds from the vacuum they created up front and score from there with unorthodox twist shots and, by that time, CCC were already ahead by a mile when the halftime buzzer sounded: 60-31.

There's nothing we could do against a physically-superior team but play our best and keep the margin as close as possible. In the second half, the amount of pressure that the Executives imposed on us were now beginning to thaw. All the time, the Executives dominated the transition offense in the first half with none coming from us. This time, we ran some fastbreaks and scored. I scored twice in this stretch happy to break loose and found my rhythm.

In the end, the margin was too much to overcome and our opponents were too skillful and too deep for us and we have to bow to them: CCC – 118, CSCST - 74. Yes, a 44-point margin. That is a lot. But we scored more in the second half than we scored in the first half and they scored less than what they scored in that same stretch. It could have been less, or more, if the three-point shot have been adopted by the league.

In my next game, we were up against the UV Green Lancers. We faced a team whose line-up is the envy of commercial and professional teams. Their players have already created a name for themselves nationwide. It was on August 21, 1983 – yes, the day Ninoy Aquino was shot – that I got to rub elbows and knees with them. We all got intimidated against them and the large crowd and it took the spirit out of us.

We could not do anything right against their defense. I scrounged for shots and I missed a lot even from close range. I piled most of my points on free throws. Our defense melted like wax and they ran both ends of the court scoring and denying us any opportunities even at the final stage. We lost by a gargantuan margin: UV – 150, CSCST – 62.

After that embarrassing loss, Benjie and I blamed my teammates for not giving out their all-out effort and played onto the crowds' taunting and hexing. That might have challenged them to gift our coach and our school with a win in our third outing against the CTS Scanners on August 28, 1983: CSCST – 86, CTS – 84. In that game, I traded blows with Ruel Gomez and we both were ejected and my teammates rallied to deliver that win.

I was served a one-game suspension in our next outing against the USJ-R Jaguars where we lost by another big margin. Against the USC Warriors we were soundly beaten by an 18-point margin and against the USP Panthers, we lost by fifteen. In that game, I tried my first trademarked pirouette shot in the middle against a taller Simpoy Tamayo and scored, silencing the crowd. The same shot I perfected later to offset my disadvantage in size in the paint.

In our final game against the CIT Wildcats on October 2, 1983 we were facing a veteran team composed of strong bangers Boboy Hernan and Lito Espinosa. Their defense was tight and their long years playing together gave them a comfortable margin at the half: CIT – 68, CSCST – 42. In the second half, things began to change a little in our favor. My teammates began to play good defense and we were able to answer their fastbreaks with our own transition plays netting the final score: CIT – 110, CSCST – 101.

In that 1983 CAAA Season we finally brought a win as against six losses and we did not linger at the cellar this time. That infamy belonged to another team. The UV Green Lancers won the CAAA championship in that year against the CCC Executives. Enecio Completo coached the Green Lancers and waved his magic again by winning the National School Basketball Championships in Iriga City, Camarines Sur against a team from Metro Manila on February 1984.

In the next six years I helped the CSCST Builders in snaring a win, sometimes two, in the tough CAAA league, thus, giving a little morale and sense of pride to our school. Mario Chuntic coached the team in 1984 and 1986. Cuenca again in 1987 and 1988 and Rey de los Reyes in 1989. CSCST did not participate in 1985. In 1986 and 1987 I took a long leave.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
1Now known as the Cebu Scholastic Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI).
2Now known as the University of Cebu (UC) Webmasters. It used to be called also as the CCC Marines, then later as the UC Aguilas.
3Now known as the San Miguel Beermen.


Anonymous said...

nice post sir. lig-una sad sa inyo kontra oi. i followed realubit sa una when he was with presto.

PinoyApache said...

Grabe ka lig-on ang amo mga kontra sa una oi. Mao to ang mga national team material kaniadto.

Hilig sab diay ko ug basketball.

Anonymous said...

igo ra tan-aw sir. :)

Anonymous said...

you left out cebu eastern college dragons

PinoyApache said...

The Cebu Eastern College do not have a collegiate team. What they have were the CEC Baby Dragons playing in the secondary division of the CAAA.