Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the same bad dream. The same bad dream, over and over.
Up to this day, I still find it difficult watching the Blackwater Elite in the PBA because of one player. Not Ray Parks, nor Paul Desiderio.
But because of that guy named Mac Belo.
Let’s rewind to five UAAP seasons back, shall we? Final Four knockout match between the De La Salle Green Archers and the FEU Tamaraws, which dates back to October 2014.
The sequence that lasted from 24 hours to forever saw FEU play for the final possession of regulation, with a championship berth for the Season 77 crown at stake. Mike Tolomia – shadowed by Julian Sargent from the perimeter – found Belo camping from the right corner for the past 15 seconds, who was left momentarily by his defender Jason Perkins.
A well-timed kickout pass by Tolomia makes its way to the hands of Belo. Belo fires. Belo nails the triple right at the buzzer.
Game over. FEU advances to the Finals. La Salle’s bid for back-to-back UAAP titles ends in a shocker. It was a long walk from TGI Friday’s Greenbelt, where I watched that tragedy of a ballgame, to our office along Amorsolo Street.
That shot from Belo still haunts me up to now.
A few years later, Isaac Go and Arvin Tolentino would inflict the same pain to the Lasallian faithful.
In Game 3 of the Season 80 finals, Go’s triple with 24.7 seconds left in the match practically clinched the crown for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. In a playoff game for the last Final Four spot of Season 81 against FEU, Arvin Tolentino sent the Archers packing with a top of the key three in the final 3.1 seconds of the deciding frame.
Then just last Saturday, Rey Suerte – a gem of a find from Cebu by UE – propelled himself to UAAP lore with a game-winning three-point bomb with 3.2 ticks to spare, sending the Archers to a 1-2 win-loss start for Season 82.
There was also the likes of Henry Ong of UST and Edwin Bacani back in the 90s. Both made the big shots from beyond the arc to derail La Salle’s championship hops for 4 consecutive seasons.
The pain of losing via the long ball lingers. But compared to the ones cashed in by Belo, Go, Tolentino and others, there is still a silver lining to that of Suerte’s.
It’s just the first round of the tournament. There are still 11 games left on our schedule. We still have a chance to take that win back from UE in round two.
We still have a shot at a Final Four ticket, just like the seven other teams.
So, everyone, chill. Just chill.