WITH a 46-40 lead at the end of the third, the University of the Visayas Lancers seemed headed to an 11th title but Shooster Olago took matters into his own hands and brought the University of San Carlos Warrios back into the fight.
After a Kiefer Lim floater made it 46-42, Olago scored 10 straight points—including a steal and a dunk--to put the Warriors up by 6, 52-46. Just like that, the Warriors, considered chokers last year, was ahead for good, and not one of them was unraveling with a six-point lead with 6:34 left to play.
They had the poise, the championship bearing and the pressure on their shoulders on ending a 57-year-old title drought seemed nothing.
And like the Warriors that they were named after, they didn’t give up; not when UV took the lead in the first quarter when USC could barely make a shot, even from the line, nor when the Lancers tried fighting back, late in the fourth.
Outsized but definitely not out-hustled, Charles Pepito came with two big put-backs in the fourth, while Ian Tagapan got a kind bounce from his three-point shot to keep USC up.
With minutes left, you could feel that Warriors felt it was their moment. Their time. No more runner-up finishes. Not now. It was all over when June Manzo was thrown out, for that foul away from the ball on Olago. Poor Manzo, I hope that won’t define his series because he’s one big reason why it reached a Game 5.
I haven’t seen any dirty play from my favorite player in Green and I hope he gets a chance to redeem himself from that mistake.
With seconds left, rookie coach Bret Reroma, was shaking the table wildly, like a kid waiting to be loose on his favorite toy store, the UV coaching staff, led by Gary Cortes, gamely approached before the buzzer to congratulate the Warriors, for a series played well.
The final buzzer. Pandemonium. But before the wild celebration, I noticed something--the Warriors paid homage to vital figures of their championship run. On the court, they trooped to Olago, the finals MVP, while off it, USC godfather Celestino Martinez Jr. was approached, without him, the Warriors wouldn’t be a contender.
Then, back on the court, Olago, and a few other Warriors approached the legendary Julian Macoy, who also had a spell as the USC coach. They were screaming, “MACOY!, MACOY!” iThe current USC legends, recognizing a former legend who still owns the record for the most points in a game.
They just made history, but the Warriors sure know who helped them get there.