April 5, 1988
It was April 5th, 1988, already summer vacation, I was only 13 years old then going 14 entering second year high school in the coming school year 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 the 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, basketball fans just can’t wait for the much-awaited showdown between these two teams, since I won’t go into further details as anyone can google search on it the first two meetings between Ginebra and Purefoods on the Manila Standard Newspaper, I’ll just went straight to the game itself based on my own recounts and selective memories to share.
The PBA was coming off a holy week break and there was not a 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 event was an exciting game as well with San Miguel winning by four points, On topic, before I started, I was rooting for Purefoods then, me and my family were able to witness three of four battles between Ginebra and Purefoods live during the 1988 PBA Open Conference. Personally, I’ve never seen a game so highly-anticipated by basketball fans as when these two teams met for the first time, with the excemption of Crispa-Toyota rivalry in the 70s and early 80s and the first meeting between Ginebra and Tanduay during the 1986 PBA Open Conference.
On to the game, with a jampacked crowd on hand and hardly any more space to fill inside the ULTRA venue, there were 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 at 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, Thirdkill’s jumper goes in after the buzzer and it was not counted, 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 Hotdogs players on the free throw line on penalty situation, the final score reads 116-110 for Purefoods, the hotdogs playing coach Ramon Fernandez was chosen best player of the night as Purefoods fans went home happy.
April 24, 1988
The second meeting between these two titans Purefoods and Ginebra happen on April 24, again we were there the whole family at the ULTRA to be part of yet another unforgetable basketball game, this time the Hotdogs were coming off a less-inspiring come-from-behind win over Great Taste, previous to that, Purefoods lost to winless Shell Helix in an upset, Ginebra San Miguel, on the other hand, were on a roll coming off a four-game winning streak. As expected, sell-out crowd at the ULTRA, two Hotdog bands sandwiched the main Ginebra gallery where the loudest fans cheered the most, the Ginebra Super Angels had their dance number before the Ginebra players enter the court amidst the uproar of the Ginebra fans.
Unlike the first match, Ginebra started out fast at 7-0, and by the end of the first quarter, were up by 14 points, 38-24, Purefoods battled back in the second period and were trailing by six points at the half, with Glenn Capacio of Purefoods converting a basket just before the end of 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.
When Ginebras went up by 13 points early in the fourth quarter, I was already thinking of a blowout win similar to last year’s third conference when Ginebra also had a string of winning runs in the second round of eliminations and routed Hills Bros Coffee Kings in one of their victories. Somehow, Purefoods keeps coming back and threatened for the last time at 119-116, four straight points by Ginebra make it 123-116 in their favor, after a Purefoods timeout, David Thirdkill hit a triple to cut the lead to four, 123-119, The one scene so memorable that had the Ginebra fans chants of Gi-ne-bra! Gi-ne-bra! drowning the 2 Hotdog bands playing was when Ginebra playing-coach Robert Jaworski called for stepping outside the line keeps dribbling the ball and showed some dribbling skills to mocked his opponents and to the delight of the crowd, the outcome already beyond doubt with Gins up, 127-119, Jojo Lastimosa scored on a triple to make it 127-122 with a second left, Jamie Waller threw the ball up high as the buzzer sounded on this memorable night. The score reads: Ginebra 127 Purefoods 122, The living legend, Sonny Jaworski was chosen best player of the game as the Gins ride high on a five-game winning streak to tie San Miguel on top of the standings at 6-win, 3-loss.
An interesting article on the Big Js 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, at the end of the article it says “Even the high-society family of Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala grinned in a pleasing manner when the crowd outshouted his group with “Jaworski”, Jaworski” and “Ginebra, Ginebra” at the very last minute. Don Jaime’s face was an interesting study of the whole gamut of emotions”.