The greatest basketball game I have ever witnessed in my life

The greatest basketball game I have ever witnessed in my life

A Story by Moonwind Belmont

The epic game 3..the last and final game between the legendary SY 1995-96 DON BOSCO GREYWOLVES VERSUS THE UNIVERSITY OF SAN JOSE BABY JAGUARS




The greatest basketball game I have ever witnessed in my life…


       No it was not any NBA Game filled with those morons performing those nearly impossible feats, defying the laws of physics and gravity. Nor was it those streak shooters that don’t seem to know the meaning of miss a shot (like Ricky Brown of the good old days of the PBA). No it’s not the SHOHOKU vs. SANNOH game from the Anime series Slam dunk (which As I Have read in the Manga brought the crowd to tears because of Sakuragi Hanamichi’s magnificent performance), it was a real game, a game of heart and soul and the will to win, and although we lost that game, every spectator that was there will never forget what transpired especially in the dying minutes of that game. October 8, 1995…Game 3 of the best of 3 series for the CAAA (now known as CESAFI) between the Don Bosco Technological Center Grey wolves and The University of San Jose Recolletos Baby Jaguars…


           I went to the University of San Carlos Main Gym with my classmates Jonas Malig and Arvin Branzuela because we were neighbors. We met up with a horde of Bosconians, who were either wearing their intramurals shirts or school uniforms (for those of you who don’t know, our school uniform was just a white shirt with the seal of Don Bosco.) We were out to let the whole world know we will die fighting (well not really) for our school. A whole lot brought banners, penchants and old Bosconian Odyssey flags. It was a star studded affair as even the drop outs of Don Bosco came to cheer for the team. I remember the article in the FREEMAN regarding this game “…the college ball has ended but the high school dance continues…History bound Don Bosco Technological Center guns for it’s first ever CAAA title since it joined the league in (a date that has been forgotten in the sands of time). It was only once in a blue moon that this event happened. We were the underdogs as the USC Main gym was filled to rafters with an unfriendly San Jose crowd. Even before the game started, the hostilities between the crowd already started. But the whole lot of the San Jose Crowd was no match for the Bosconians, students, dropouts and alumni who congregated together and made lots of noise from the empty cans of paint they found somewhere or show their a*s to the San Jose crowd.


           There was a deafening roar from both sides as the starting line-ups for both teams were announced. Being a Bosconian of course I am biased to say that we were the louder crowd. From my view in the General patronage area, I could clearly see that more than half of the population from San Jose was from the opposite sex. Then again the Don Bosco team was the hungrier crowd. Hungry which means watching the game on empty stomachs and a passion for the first ever major basketball title for the School. I could remember our starting five, Rommel Sido, our point guard who ran faster than anybody in the whole gym, our Center, Hendrell Saliz( who happens to be an honor student at the same time) , Small forward Mark Herubelfel( or is it Herufelbel?) Cuba who could also double as a power forward underneath the basket and our batch’s star player Giovanni Canceko at shooting guard to provide the strong presence underneath. And of course our star player Wendell Ian Senerpida whom you can never stop once he’s on fire. I could not really recall San Jose’s starting line up but I could remember there was this Jan Michael Senerpida, Our star player’s cousin and a star in his own right (the only San Jose player who looked his age), Hercules Tangkay (Now in the PBA and is rumored to be a brother in my fraternity) and a host of other players whom we had unparalleled hatred.


           During the first half, it seemed all the saints in heaven, headed by St. John Bosco, were on our side as everyone on the Don Bosco team seemed to be on fire and the Bosconian crowd was whipped into a frenzy by such awesome game play. The Grey wolves never looked back as basket after basket we nailed the coffin on the San Jose team. By the end of the first half we had a mind boggling 20 point lead over the highly favored baby jaguars. The Bosconian crowd was high with emphatic fever and victory seemed a few short moments away as what could be compared to a raging street party with music provided by the Don Bosco Drum and Bugle corps.


           The Grey wolves picked up where they left at the start of the 2nd half. But slowly this deadly weapon called KUMPYANSA was utilized by the Baby Jaguars. What commenced then after was a hostile battle for points and school pride as both teams and crowds struggled for the upper hand. By this time the Bosconian population doubled and more than half of this population, which included me and my classmates, were now at court side giving morale support to our team. Then what transpired next was a hostile exchange of points and pride between the 2 teams and their crowds. The Bosconian crowd turned into a violent, rampaging beast which defended the Bosconian Spirit. The seniors who included Paco Larañaga and some Senior Akrho members alongside old alumni like the Vapor brothers and other Pro Don Bosco fans shook the ring when a San Jose cager would attempt a free throw. Threats, curses and insults were thrown at the baby jaguars at the terrible onslaught of the Bosconian populace. During the last ten minutes, the game was halted a number of times because of the crowd. A point even came that blows were exchanged between a heated Don Bosco fan and a San Jose player. And to top it all, the Grey wolves squandered a 25 point lead.


           At the 5 minute mark, the baby jaguars took their first taste of the lead, which blatantly demoralized a stunned Don Bosco team. But the crowd would never give up and prompted the grey wolves to keep up the fight. In the dying minutes the teams exchanged basket after basket, every point crucial to the cause. The grey wolves, backed up by what could be the loudest crowd in secondary basketball history, renewed their confidence as they rallied to get the lead back. Then this incident….


           At about a few seconds before the last 2 minutes, San Jose in the lead by a point, the ball went out of bounds in favor of the baby jaguars. The ball landed right in our midst. It was picked up by one of my section’s most notorious jokers Jose Luis Fortich. The referee asked for the ball but instead of giving him the ball, Fortich paraded around the San Jose ring and from our position outside the court, fired a three point shot which delighted the crowd. However the referee was not about happy at it at all.


           Then the last 2 minutes was a see saw battle of guts and nerves. The one point lead swayed back and forth, with fatigue and pressure resting on the players of both teams. The crowd was relentless in the cheer. It was then there came a lucky break for the Bosconian cause. A San Jose cager fouled Hendrell Saliz on the way to the basket with San Jose leading by 3 points, Saliz was awarded 3 free throws as a result of a technical foul called against the San Jose team. Hendrell, normally a good free throw shooter stood with nerves of steel at the free throw line. The Bosconian dream of winning it’s first ever CAAA title was still possible. But alas, the horror of all horrors, Hendrell missed all three. I remember his father who was with us at ring side shouted at his son in disgust and disbelief. Hendrell fell on his knees in disbelief and a mad scramble for the ball in the last 12 seconds of the game erupted. The ball crossed the San Jose back court at 10 seconds but the ferocious defense of the Bosconians didn’t give any opening. I saw Father Lan Guiao, our school principal and Team Manager of the grey wolves lower his head clutching his rosary as if he was ready to throw in the towel. The whole Bosconian horde was struck with silence at the pain of impending defeat. But as if all the angels in heaven united and made one more miracle for good old Johnny Bosco…


           Out of nowhere, Giovanni Canceko intercepted a pass from San Jose, which caused a roar that almost blew off the roof of the USC main gym. In those last 4 seconds, I don’t know if the angels from heaven carried him, or St. John Bosco caused a miracle but Vanny traveled form the San Jose Back court to our side of the front court in 2 seconds, And guarded by 2 San Jose defenders, in an angle that seemed impossible from all points of view, and it seemed he was chopped in the neck and the abdomen, Giovanni Canceko, # 13 shooting guard Don Bosco Grey wolves did the impossible. He sank a three pointer, plus a foul. With no more time remaining and the game in a deadlock, Giovanni’s free throw will win us our first ever CAAA title. Then again, never count your chickens unless your eggs have hatched…


           That miraculous shot sent all Bosconians into the court in dizzying frenzy. There was dancing, revelry or as Don Bosco would say Run, shout, jump and play all you want but do not sin. It was as if we already won the championship. I myself was running around the court in a mad frenzy with the Bosconian community. I took a glimpse at Father Lan, who didn’t seem to know whether to scold us or to laugh at us. Then we heard this announcement from the officials table…




           The referee whom Fortich had made fun of a few minutes ago slapped the Don Bosco team with a technical foul thus canceling Giovanni’s free throw and sealed our fate. The game was sent into overtime and sad to say, that was where it all ended…




           To make the long story short, Senerpida and Cuba fouled out of the game and most of our team surrendered to fatigue and the University of San Jose Baby Jaguars defeated the Don Bosco Grey wolves. I forgot the final score because I was too depressed to realize we lost. The next day during our morning assembly, although the sun was shining brightly, it was as if somebody died and a cloud of gloom hung over everyone who was there during the game.


           But I blame nobody for what transpired during that day. Our grey wolves’ team gave their very best. I only have respect for that team which made it that far and well, there are times that you can’t win them all. In the following years, Don Bosco had other teams, other talent and won other championships. But that 1995-96 grey wolves team for me will be the most legendary team Don Bosco Technological Center has ever assembled and no one, who saw that final game with the Baby Jaguars will disagree.


           When I graduated from Don Bosco during March of ’97, we came back during those summer vacation days and played a lot of basketball at the old gym with Bosconian Alumni. It was during one of these summer morning games that some of the 95-96 Grey wolves came back for some basketball and we had a fun morning that day, I remember we were against a team with Hendrell Saliz, Gerard Bosque and Mark Cuba. In a play, I blocked Mark Cuba’s shot and I was running around announcing that. Mark just laughed at my comic actions that day. The bottom line was there was some dignity in stopping a player from that Grey Wolves team and though we take it alongside the lighter side of life, it was like a tribute to that team that almost made it.


WRITER’S NOTE: Actually I was not sure what day in October that Last game between us and San Jose happened. Honestly I even forgot how Hendrell Saliz missed those free throws. But I just recalled the events the best I could as a tribute to all the members of that 1995-96 Don Bosco Grey Wolves team.

© 2011 Moonwind Belmont

Author's Note

Moonwind Belmont
Actually I was not sure what day in October that Last game between us and San Jose happened. Honestly I even forgot how Hendrell Saliz missed those free throws. But I just recalled the events the best I could as a tribute to all the members of that 1995-96 Don Bosco Grey Wolves team.

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Added on October 5, 2011
Last Updated on October 6, 2011
Tags: Don Bosco


Moonwind Belmont
Moonwind Belmont

Cebu, 7, Philippines

I'm a musician by heart and have been blessed with this talent since I was a kid. I am also a writer but it seems I have lost the touch when I entered this reality called the "WORKING WORLD". I used t.. more..