It was April 5th, 1988, school year has just ended and its already summer vacation, I was only 13 years old when I was fortunate enough to witness a basketball rivalry between the newest toast in Philippine basketball, the Purefoods Hotdogs, composed of the core of the disbanded Tanduay Rhum Makers with glamour rookies Jojo Lastimosa and Jerry Codinera, and crowd-favorite Ginebra San Miguel. Two weeks before, the PBA opens shop on March 20 and it was the first time I was able to watch a PBA game live at the ULTRA. During the opening ceremonies when the late Joe Cantada introduces the newcomer Purefoods Hotdogs, there were lots of cheers and boos as well from the Ginebra fans in the Gallery section and basketball fans just can’t wait for the much-awaited showdown between these two teams.
The PBA was coming off a Holy Week break and there was no scheduled game on Easter Sunday (April 3) at that time, so it was Tuesday, April 5, we came in midway in the first game between last year’s finals protagonists San Miguel Beer and Alaska Milk, the appetizer before the main game was as exciting with San Miguel winning by four points. I was able to witness three of four battles between Ginebra and Purefoods live during the 1988 PBA Open Conference and i’ve never seen a game so highly-anticipated by basketball fans as when these two teams met for the first time.
With a jampacked crowd on hand and hardly any more space to fill inside the ULTRA venue, there are several misses on both teams in the first two minutes of the game and it was deafening inside the venue, chairs rocking as we were sitting in the courtside seats. The first point of the night was a split free throw from Ginebra import Jamie Waller, then Purefoods import David Thirdkill scored the first basket on a short pass inside the paint. At the end of the first quarter, the Hotdogs were up by a point, 26-25. The second quarter was still close until Ginebra took command and led by 13 points at the half, 56-43.
Early in the third quarter, the Ginebras got their biggest lead of 16 points, 60-44, sensing urgency, the Hotdogs came through with a big, third quarter run and suddenly, Purefoods was on top, 78-71, the Gins rallied to tie the count at 82-all until JB Yango of Purefoods scored just before the final horn sounded ending the third period, 84-82 for Purefoods. I can’t exactly recall what transpired when play was halted early in the fourth quarter, Ginebra up, 92-90, and the Ginebra fans chanting Gi-ne-bra!, Gi-ne-bra!, when the game resumes, the Hotdogs turn the tide in their favor, leading by 10 points, 111-101, as the match was down to the final three minutes, the last nine points of Ginebra came from either a three-point play, a free throw and a follow up conversion as they attempt to stop the clock and putting the players from the opposing team on the free throw line on penalty situation, the final score was 116-110 for Purefoods. The Hotdogs playing coach Ramon Fernandez was chosen best player of the night and Purefoods fans went home happy.
As I revised some of my earlier write-up when I found this article, the incident im referring when play was halted in the fourth period was the short fight between Chito Loyzaga and Jerry Codinera and Thirdkill kicking at Joey Loyzaga. I only realize now that Chito and Jerry were actually thrown out of the game. The contents in my earlier postings says Loyzaga and Codinera had a near-fight during the first half.
The second meeting between these two titans happened on April 24, we were there again, the whole family at the ULTRA to be part of yet another unforgetable basketball game. Noticeable before a sell-out crowd was the two Purefoods bands on opposite sides near the main Ginebra gallery where the loudest and craziest, die-hard Ginebra fans cheered the most, the Ginebra Super Angels had their dance number before the Ginebra players enter the playing court.
Ginebra started out fast, taking a 7-0 lead early and by the end of the first quarter, they were up by 14 points, 38-24. There was a scene I remember in the second quarter when Purefoods playing-coach Ramon Fernandez keeps complaining and slam a table near the officials in one non-call by the referees. The Hotdogs battled back in the second period and were trailing by six points at halftime with Glenn Capacio converting a basket just before the end of the first 24 minutes of play to make it 65-59 in favor of Ginebra. Third quarter action had the Gins answered every uprising by the Hotdogs, a buzzer-beating tip-in by Ed Ducut? gave Ginebra a 103-92 lead after three quarters.
In this photo, the intensity of the game had Fernandez collide with Chito Loyzaga and turn upside-down, luckily, Chito was able to hold on to his head.
The Ginebras went up by 13 points early in the fourth quarter but Purefoods keeps coming back and threatened for the last time at 119-116, four straight points by Ginebra makes it 123-116. After a Purefoods timeout, David Thirdkill hit a triple to cut the lead to four, 123-119. Ginebra fans keeps chanting Gi-ne-bra! Gi-ne-bra! in the final minute with the ageless Jaworski giving them every reason to cheer when upon stepping outside the line near their goal, he keeps dribbling the ball in an attempt to mocked his opponents with the outcome already beyond doubt for Ginebra, Jojo Lastimosa converted on a trey with one second remaining, the score reads 127-122 for Ginebra, Jamie Waller got the pass from the inbound and threw the ball up high as the buzzer sounded on this memorable night. The living legend, Ginebra playing-coach Sonny Jaworski was chosen best player of the game, he finished with 23 points as the Ginebras ride high on a five-game winning streak and tie San Miguel on top of the standings with six wins and three losses.
An interesting article on the Big J’s incredible performance in leading his team to a victory over Purefoods, written by Lily Ramos on Sports Flash issue dated April 28-May 4, 1988, it was the third straight game the 42-years old Jaworski was chosen best player of the night.