MANILA, Philippines—A game that was advertised as an exhibition game definitely didn’t feel like one.
Bodies were flying, defenders were quick to close out on their targets, almost no fastbreak attempts went unchallenged and it even boiled down to a last-second shot.
Letran defeated University of Santo Tomas, 80-79, on a game winner by Kevin Buenaflor in a charity match dubbed as “Dominicans Collide” on Thursday.
Buenaflor’s tip-in with 0.2 ticks left capped the clutch effort of Knights, who thwarted the Tigers’ comeback from 19 points down, to the delight of students and fans alike.
According to a school official, at least 600 tickets amounting to P300 each were sold and all of which will go to the victims of Typhoon “Yolanda,” in the combined effort of the two Dominican schools.
The Knights’ gymnasium in Intramuros, Manila was packed as both squads, runner ups in their respective leagues, flaunted a complete line-up.
Jeric Teng and Raymund Almazan donned their college jerseys for the last time, but those who were left to carry on their teams’ bids in the NCAA and the UAAP were the ones who stepped up.
“They didn’t want to lose, and neither did we. They also know what kind of heart we have when we play,” said an elated Almazan after the game. “This is a non-bearing game so everybody is happy.”
Both Almazan and Teng were scoreless but Ford Ruaya and Buenaflor finished with 15 and 11 for the Knights, while Ed Daquioag and Kevin Ferrer had 18 and 17, respectively, for the Tigers.
“We’re just here to support the team and the event,” said Teng, who played against Rain or Shine teammate Almazan. “Relax lang kami.”
UST, which hasn’t had real practice since losing the title shot to De La Salle last October in the UAAP, led early 9-2 but lost the lead and played catch up the rest of the way.
The Knights led by as much as 58-39 in the third but the Tigers managed to take over the driver’s seat on an undergoal stab from Daquioag off a nice feed from Louie Vigil with a minute left.
Students from Letran cheered “Go USTe!” and those from UST chanted “Arriba Letran!” but as the game reached the homestretch, it became a cheering match as well.
“We did this for a cause. Students from both sides enjoyed the game and as you saw, coach Pido [Jarencio] and I were having fun,” said Letran coach Caloy Garcia.
During a timeout, Jarencio walked over to the Knights’ huddle and jokingly showed Garcia his final play. UST had a chance to seal the win but turned the ball over in the inbound play.
“We’re always open to things like this, especially when you can help your fellowmen who were affected by typhoon Yolanda,” said Jarencio. “We didn’t have hesitations. It was a fun game.”
It won’t be as friendly two weeks from now, though, when the Knights and the Tigers clash in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL).
Jarencio said that their training will be back in full swing on Monday.