[Blueboard] Blue Heaven by Bob Guerrero

Rowena Marquez jcf at pusit.admu.edu.ph
Wed Oct 9 16:52:16 PHT 2002


Blue Heaven.
Ateneo completes their miraculous run to the UAAP title and then
celebrated in true Ateneo fashion.
By Bob Guerrero

Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, 2002 UAAP Seniors Basketball
Champions.  Got a nice ring to it, huh? 

The 77-70 Game 3 victory was almost anticlimactic.  La Salle never
really looked as if they were going to win.  For once they laid a
gigantic green-and-white egg in a big game. They played selfishly,
amassing only 10 assists to our 20.  At one point in the last few
minutes Mark Cardona took shots in 4 straight possessions. Needless to
say none went in. Mike Cortez was pitiful.  A shadow of the great player
we all know he is. His line: 13 points, 2-13 FGs.  That's 15%. Now we
know he is human and, more importantly, no Ren-ren Ritualo.

All in all Ateneo was 43% from the field while La Salle was a mere 30%.
Ateneo served up with their best game of the year when they needed it 
most. They converted 7 of their 21 3-point attempts, none more important 
than the one Chris Quimpo nailed with 2:26 that put us up 73-62.  That
was the death blow.  Quimpo launched it from well beyond the PBA arc. 
It would've been a three in an NBA arena. Enrico Villanueva may have
been the league MVP but I believe that Wesley was the real hero of the
game.  His 16 points came with 12 rebounds (5 offensive) and 5 assists.

As the final buzzer sounded the Ateneo supporters and players stormed
the court and whooped up the most improbable championship run in UAAP
history. They rose from the ashes of a 4-5 record, bucked injuries to
slotman Paolo Bugia and guard Membrere, shook off a hand injury to L.A
Tenorio, and blazed to the title, wining 9 of their last ten games.

Who was the real hero for the Blue Eagles?  The fact that this question
is so hard to answer speaks volumes about the team's quality.  Was it
Villanueva? Was it former MVP Richie Alvarez, whose scoring prowess was
complimented by remarkable court vision?  (He had 7 assists in game 3)
Was it Wesley, who, after sitting it out last year, was a force both
inside and outside?  Was it Quimpo, who spelled the injured Tenorio and
played gallantly, committing precious few mistakes and chipping in
crucial
threes in every game?  Was it Tenorio, who pumped in 17 points against
UE in his return from injury last September 20 then made back-to back
triples
yesterday?  Was it Gec Chia, whose epic 20 foot game-winning jumper 
against U.E. may go down as the greatest shot in Ateneo basketball
history?  Was it Larry Fonacier, who snuffed out La Salle's hopes in
Game One by smothering not one but two of Cardona's desperation shots? 
Was it Joel Banal, who somehow kept his team believing even when they
were losing five of six games?  Hard to say.

After the game the Ateneo faithful trooped to the brand new Church of
the Gesu in the Ateneo campus. The atmosphere was unreal.  Part New
Year's
Eve, part EDSA II, part Independence Day.  Alumni milled around the
church, congratulating each other and spontaneously shouting Ateneo
cheers.  Cars circled the Bellarmine field, their horns honking
incessantly as fans waved flags and pumped fists.  

Shortly before 9 p.m. a Coaster pulled up to the front.  The players are
here!  As they walked on a conga line from the Coaster to the church
they were mobbed by fans, who high-fived them joyously.  Andrew Evan
Cruz, in his Californian drawl, could only exclaim "this is real, this
is real."

The Eagles entered the church to the tumultuous applause of the fans who
had packed the place to the gills. After wading through the crowd the
players and coaches sat behind the altar.  After an announcement was
made asking for water for the players, the mass began.  The readers for
the first and second reading were none other graduating seniors and
co-captains Cruz and Villanueva.  A beautiful gesture. Father Nebres
promised and delivered a brief homily, explaining that the most eloquent
statement of the day had already been made by the players.

The last communion song was "Pilgrim's Theme," which was announced as
the team's spiritual theme song.  This was the song Father Johnny Go
S.J.
used when he produced a video chronicling his travels around the world
retracing the steps of the first globetrotting Jesuit missionaries.  The
players must feel like pilgrims on a quest.  A journey that ultimately
led them to glory.  The entire team sang along, arms linked.  A lovely
sight.

The closing hymm?  It could only be the Alma Mater song.  Unlike the
raucous rendition at the game, which was punctuated by shouts of "Go
Ateneo!" this version was decidedly solemn.  It was sung slowly, 
reverently and prayerfully by a community humbled by the blessing that
had been showered upon them. Afterwards the throng spilled on to the
field and cheered as fireworks lit up the crisp Loyola sky.

There are probably hundreds of college sports teams around the world who
win championships and celebrate.  I believe that none of them would have
celebrated the way we did.  It was a truly Atenean moment that showed
how important a role spirituality played in this championship.  I was so
glad that I was there.  The Ateneans who watched the game but didn't go
to
the Church of the Gesu after missed out on a lot.

That night I received a text from my cousin Juanchit Jose, the brother
of former Archers captain Mon Jose. It read "Congrats to all my Atenean
friends! Great game, great series.  Enjoy it since it's only on loan
for 1 year!"

He's right.  The title has been on loan. To them. From us.  For 14
years.

=====

In solidarity with the championship fervor, Jesuit Communications is
making available CDs and tapese featuring "Pilgrim's Theme", the
spiritual theme song of the Ateneo Blue Eagles basketball team, at a
special price. 

"Pilgrim's Theme" is included in the albums "The Best of Bukas Palad"
volume two and "Hangad Acapella."  You may avail of them at Jesuit
Communications, Sonlux Bldg. or Jesuit Music Ministry, LHS at the
discounted price of P300.00 (regular price - P350.00) for CDs and
P100.00 (regular price - P120.00) for tapes.

Please present a copy of this e-mail to avail of the discount.

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