“REUNION BASKETBALL GAMES” HAVE BEEN THE FAD THE LAST TWO YEARS OR SO. WHETHER IT HAS BEEN BETWEEN HISTORIC PRO LEAGUE RIVALS OR BITTER COLLEGE ENEMIES, FANS HAVE QUICKLY RESPONDED TO GET THEIR NOSTALGIA FIX.
Southern Philippines’ legendary ball club, the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu City Jewelers, recently celebrated its 20th year of existence with a Grand Reunion Game featuring a mix of its past and present players, coaches and staff recently at the New Cebu City Coliseum, the Mecca of basketball in Cebu.
Game organizer and Jewelers head coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba began preparations as early as last year after he proposed the idea to team owner Michel J. Lhuillier.
The first thing on the agenda was to gather the players from the 1986 Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) Freedom Cup champion team led by certified superstars Samboy Lim and Jojo Lastimosa.
Lim and Lastimosa gamely answered the call and assured their presence in the game. And the other players followed suit one by one.
THE GAME: WHITE VS. RED
Lastimosa showed why he is dubbed “The Fourth Quarter Man” as he connected on a reverse lay-up with 12 seconds remaining to lift M. Lhuillier-White over M. Lhuillier-Red, 109-108.
Lastimosa actually scored the last eight points of the Whites mentored by PBA veteran Alfredo Enriquez – playing as a one-man army against fellow superstars Lim and Zaldy Realubit in the final two minutes.
After Lim equalized the count for the last time on a free throw, 107-107, Lastimosa traveled and was forced to foul Realubit, who split his charities to put the Reds on top for the last time with 28 seconds to play.
The Reds coached by 1980 PBA Rookie of the Year Willy Generalao, raced to a 41-32 lead after the free-wheeling first quarter that saw Lim scatter 16 points and team up with Elmer Cabahug to battle Lastimosa and Al Solis in a torrid exchange of triples.
The Whites clamped down to work and rallied to grab the upper hand at halftime, 74-72, behind the bombs of Solis and Stephen Padilla and the drives of enforcer Jay Ramirez.
Solis, Lastimosa and big Bonel Balingit then helped maintain the Whites’ edge entering the exciting final period, 94-90.
Lastimosa finished with 29 points to lead the Whites while Solis added 25. Lawrence Merced and Ramirez added 12 and 10 respectively. Lim unloaded a game-high 41 points followed by Realubit with 20 and Cabahug with 14.
After the game, everyone retreated to Casino Espanol de Cebu for dinner, drinks and all-night fun.
Senorito Michel and lovely wife Amparito Lhuillier warmly welcomed all the guests. Highlight of the program hosted by sportscaster Prof. Randy Sacdalan and upcoming Cebuana VJ Monica Yncierto was an inspiring audio-video presentation on the 20 years of the team.
Surprise entertainment numbers were provided by balladeer Boyet Lim and Coach Enriquez, but it was the song and guitar numbers of Realubit and Balingit that earned the stole the show, especially when the twin towers belted out a Novelty Song Medley.
“When I was a student at La Salle, I wanted to join the basketball team,” said Michel Lhuillier before thanking everyone for coming. “However, I did not make it so I said to myself I will own a basketball team one day.”
A man of French ancestry born in Vietnam, Señorito Michel has a big Filipino heart and truly loves the sport closest to Filipinos. He together with Coach Yayoy and Cabahug are trustees of the newly minted Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
Note: Originally published on pages 22 and 23 of the April 2007 issue of Manila Bulletin Sports Digest.