Epic rivalry returns-A A +A
Saturday, September 22, 2012
AMERICAN playwright, physician and essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “To brag little, to show well, to crow gently--if in luck; to pay up, to own up, and to shut up – if beaten; are the virtues of a sporting man.”
These virtues that Holmes elaborated also best describe what every man who has donned the University of the Visayas Green Lancers and the Southwestern University Cobras uniform have in common.
Although they were molded to “hate and topple each other and armed to outplay the other” —to the extent that they were tagged as arch-nemesis—yet they left all the fierce competition on the court and never took it personally.
In a hard court rivalry that dates back to the 60s, the sportsmanship of the players, coaches and officials was the harmonizer, even though things got so heated inside the court.
Had the players not abided by the unwritten rules of sportsmanship, there could have been a lot of physical injuries and players of both schools couldn’t have reached the pros.
When UV and SWU collide, friction ignites and fist-fights were common fixtures, at least in the past.
“We had the same brand of basketball and we played a physical game. We had a vast recruitment field. The school invested in basketball and both of us had pride and a tradition to continue. We, as players, were brought up not to lose against SWU and so were they,” said Lancers ’96-’97 team captain Gary Cortes.
The worst of these hardcourt rivalries was in the 1974 Cebu Amateur Athletic Association (CAAA---the predecessor of today’s Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. ) championship game.
“Dili na ko makahinumdom unsay hinungdan ato. Basta ang akong nahinumdoman kay sumbagay na. Bag-o pa gani nagsugod ang duwa lamok-lamok na. Ang mga fans nanulod sa korte nagsumbagay, binunalay. Pwerte gyud gubota,” said Cesafi deputy commissioner Danny Duran, who played for UV during that legendary hardcourt free-for-all.
Crowd loved fights
The game was stopped with just eight minutes past the first half with UV up by two, 16-14.
Old newspaper clippings compiled in the Lancers’ trophy room recall that the melee started between UV’s Hermes Sumalinog and SWU’s Satur Aquino and all hell broke loose.
No champion was declared that year and SWU left CAAA, and returned only after 20 years in 1994.
Before that, UV defeated SWU for the CAAA title in the 1972 finals, but there are no clippings available for that game.
“The competition of both schools and their traditions as well, triggered the physicality of the game. In fact before, kon walay away ang UV-SWU game, bati na nga duwa. People came to watch the talents from both teams, pero mas mo enjoy sila kon magkainitay na ang mga players, kon physical na kaayo ang duwa,” said Sumalinog, who took over the coaching job at UV from 1987 to 1989. “Sukad pa gyud na sauna, hangtud na karon.”
In 1994, SWU returned to the fold of the CAAA and two years later, made the finals against the UV Lancers. And, like Sumalinog said, the rivalry was so heated a fight broke out again. It was in Game 2 of the series—which UV won, 2-1—that another free-for-all was added to the storied UV vs. SWU rivalry.
It was in the middle of the third quarter on Game 2 of the best-of-three series of the CAAA ’96 finals when the fire started.
Five players were thrown out—the Cobras’ Cezar Romero, Roy Vistal, James Laygo and Sanshane Barrita, while only Gabriel Maloloy-on was banished from the UV side.
“We left everything what happened inside the court. Outside, we were all friends. I remembered it was Maloy (Gabby Maloloy-on) who started it. Pero human sa hitabo, murag wala ra man. Ang wife ni Maloy was a volleyball player sa SWU before, unya magsigi man siya og adto sa school wa man nanghilabot niya,” said Danny Aying, the captain ball of the Cobras during the ’96 squad.
Aying, Romero and Ronald Saracho and Christopher Abellana, Rene Alforque and Felix Belano Jr., who is now the head coach of UV, were all part of the 1996 team. After the Cesafi, they were hired to play for the Chowking franchise to the PBL the following year.
Aying, Belano and Alforque made it to the PBA years later.
During the years when the Cobras were absent in the CAAA, their rivalry continued at the Zonals, the regional qualifying tournament for the National Inter-Collegiate championships.
One of the reported instance of their bad-blood was in 1983 Zonals, when Anthony Mendoza of UV and George Bolen of SWU traded punches.
And they even brought their rivalry to the national level.
“Bisan didto sa national grabe gihapon binunalay kon mag-abot na ang UV ug SWU. Murag mga iring ug iro, di gyud magkaduol,” said Bobby Inoferio who once called the shots for the Cobras in the ’80s.
And last year, they had another near free-for-all when UV tried to roughhouse the Cobras during their knockout semifinal encounter. Four players from UV were thrown out and were suspended for the rest of the season. The game was officially called off with 58 seconds left in the clock.
The present generation of the Aznar and Gullas family—the owners of SWU and UV—are proud to be part of a long basketball tradition and are hoping to extend it. Right now, Samsam Gullas, the team manager of the Lancers and Ryan Aznar, the athletic director of SWU, will get a chance to add to the rivalry.
“I can’t speak of what have happened in the past but all I know is that the rivalry between our teams had been there even before my father (Didi) was born. It has been a tradition and I am here to make sure that UV’s winning tradition (over SWU) will continue,” Gullas said.
“It was already there. It was already a rivalry before I was even born. I have no record to show how it started and how it happened. All I can say is that we will fight to continue the tradition,” Aznar said.
On Tuesday, the much awaited Game 1 of the best-of-5 championship series between the Lancers and the Cobras will start with UV carrying a perfect 9-0 record, while the Cobras have two losses—both against UV.
As much as he wants to keep an unbeaten record like when UV won the first Cesafi title in 2001, the young Gullas believes the series could stretch to a fifth game.
Cortes, for his part is bolder, predicting a 3-1 win by the Lancers, while Aying, although a former Cobra, believes that UV could pull the victory also in four games.
Lik Gullas, Sumalinog’s sees a fifth-game win for UV, while Duran isn’t picking any team as he has to stay impartial owing to his being the Cesafi commissioner.
Whoever gets it right in predicting the outcome of this year’s finals, one thing is sure—the two teams will do all they can to make sure they’ll win this year’s title at their rival’s expense.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 23, 2012.