After 40 minutes of basketball, the DLSU Green Archers and the UST Growling Tigers were tied at 65 points apiece and this called for an overtime period to settle the score.
The best-of-three UAAP Season 76 finals between these two multi-titled squads was filled with historical anecdotes and old rivalries, yet nothing was brought up more than the 1999 finals series between these two schools–the last time they met for the championship. La Salle won the third game and clinched the championship in overtime 14 years ago after losing the opening game of the series to UST, and many Lasallians hoped that history would repeat itself come the penultimate match.
The reminiscing of this glorious moment inevitably brought up the name of one gutsy guard who etched his name forever in UAAP history with a three pointer from the top of the key. Dino Aldeguer was the hero of that game on October 9, 1999 after he hit a triple plus drew a foul to tie the count with 2.7 seconds remaining. He missed the bonus free throw that could have won the game, but his shot was enough to force the extra period and from there, the Green Archers took care of business and disposed of UST by three points.
“Its amazing, very humbling for me and I feel very flattered that after 14 years, people are still talking and remembering that game. Its really memorable but more so I’ve seen the loylalty of the Lasallian community. I feel so blessed, the Lord has blessed me with that game and over 14 years people are still talking about that game,” shares Aldeguer.
Now 14 years and four days after the last victory of the Green Archers over UST, the latter had other plans as they raced out to a 15 point lead in the third period. La Salle was down and out, yet the youthful Green Archers clawed their way back into the game and by the time the final buzzer sounded, the game would go into overtime as well, and it was deja vu at its finest.
“Just like in 1999, this game will go into overtime!,” announced the arena barker after regulation.
It was an eerie feeling for everyone at the Mall of Asia Arena, and it truly seemed as if history was ready to repeat itself. Aside from the similar trajectory of the series, several members of the 1999 Green Archers were present, together with their legendary coach Franz Pumaren, hoping to witness a duplication of their feat.
True enough, the Green Archers clinched the victory in overtime after Almond Vosotros hit the go-ahead jumper which gave them the lead for good. It was a sweet victory for La Salle and it was the team’s first championship in the league since 2007.
“I think its crazy because earlier, I was talking to some guys here and I said, ‘So this is how it felt pala.’ I didn’t know how everyone in the crowd felt because I was playing. This time I was watching and I felt so ecstatic,” shares Aldeguer on watching the game unfold from the stands.
He adds, “It was so exciting just seeing them and I almost lost my voice shouting and shouting. Galing! I never thought it was going to go into overtime but I know the guys had the heart to finish the game.”
Changing of the guard
With all of the spine-tingling similarities between the two championship series plus the presence of the former team at the game, it no longer comes off as a major shock to find out that Aldeguer and Vosotros had a conversation the night before the game.
These two guards will go down in history in a similar manner as two clutch players who stepped up in the finals, coincidentally against the same team in the title clinching match. “Now, we have a sort of similar game [to 1999], Almond, you know I was talking to him yesterday and I knew he was going to step up and I’m glad that he did,” says Aldeguer.
Aldeguer’s historic game in 1999 was his last for La Salle as he used up his UAAP eligibility, but that championship was the second of four straight during a historic era for the Green Archers. He definitely knows what it takes to become a UAAP champion, so it means a lot when he says, “I think we’re going to be in this kind of scenario for a long time. We have a good team, a good coach and boss Danding is there. The future is bright for the team and I would really like to keep watching the games.”