As early as 3:00 p.m. on a warm, sunny afternoon at the USEP Gym in Davao, fans mingled around the venue, hoping to get a glimpse of the biggest PBA superstars who played in the 80’s 90’s and early 2000s. It was no surprise therefore that when the Ginebra and Purefoods legends arrived around 4:00 p.m, shrills and chants of the players’ names were heard all over. They remained rock stars even after retirement.
The Return of the Rivals, an exhibition game organized by the Breakthrough and Milestones Production, Inc. (BMPI) in cooperation with the PBA Legends Foundation, Inc. and UNTV network, saw the two rivals play their hearts out for bragging rights despite gaining additional poundage in the midsection, possessing brittle knees, and a higher hairline. In the end, in front of more than 3,000 fans in the gym, the Ginebra team pulled off a 100-92 victory over their arch rivals, the Purefoods squad.
Ginebra inserted Marlou Aquino, Noli Locsin, Jayvee Gayoso, Willie Miller and Bal David in their starting lineup. Not to be outdone, Purefoods fielded Jerry Codiñera, Alvin Patrimonio, Rey Evangelista, PJ Simon and Dindo Pumaren. It was close at the start until Ginebra used its vaunted running game anchored by David and Miller to give them a 29-22 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Ginebra fielded EJ Feihl, Alan Caidic, Sunday Salvacion and Johnny Abarrientos to backstop Aquino, while Purefoods inserted Bonel Balingit, Nelson Asaytono, Rodney Santos, PJ Simon and Roger Yap. Ginebra weathered pockets of rally attempts by Purefoods to keep a safe distance, 59-50, heading into the halftime break. Caidic, who missed his first six three-point attempts, finally made one at the buzzer to give the Gins the cushion.
At the start of the third quarter, Purefoods detonated a 15-0 bomb in the first three minutes courtesy of Simon’s two treys, a trey and a layup by Santos and a nifty jumper from Evangelista to seize the lead, 65-59, forcing the Gins to sue for time. Locsin broke the spell with a putback, then Salvacion added 6 points and Caidic hit another trey to give the lead back to Ginebra, 70-68. Three back-breaking triples – two from the Triggerman and a difficult, yet amazing turnaround then stepback move from Salvacion (hailed as the offensive play of the game) – allowed the Gins to stay ahead at the end of the 3rd quarter, 79-72.
Santos scored the first basket of the fourth to put the Hotdogs behind by 5, 79-74. But Ginebra made a huge 11-0 run, courtesy of a Feihl layup, two treys from Caidic, and one trey and a layup from Salvacion, to give the Gins their biggest lead, 90-74, at the 8-minute mark. After a Simon layup to cut the lead to 14, Salvacion made another trey while Miller hoisted one of his patented bank shots from the elbow for a 19-point lead, 95-76.
Purefoods made one last run with 6 minutes left in the game after back-to-back conversions from Evangelista, a trey and two free throws for Simon and another layup from Evangelista, 95-87. But Simon failed to cut the lead further to 5 by missing a crucial three-point attempt at the 2-minute mark. Aquino took advantage by scoring on a putback layup to stretch the lead to 10 points, 97-87. Santos made a transition layup, then Simon hoisted another trey, before Caidic fittingly ended the game with another buzzer-beating trey, 100-92.
The players were mobbed at the court after the game by the fans seeking for autographs and selfies. PBA Legends Foundation chairman Atoy Co and corporate secretary Ed Cordero graced the affair with Co delivering the open remarks. BMPI Vice President Gerry Panghulan also thanked the fans who watched the game live and gave a 500,000-peso donation to the Foundation intended to help former PBA players by providing medical assistance.
The game, covered by broadcasters Sev Sarmenta and Ronnie Magsanoc, will be aired on a delayed telecast on UNTV anytime within the week.
Ginebra (100) – Salvacion – 27; Caidic – 22; Aquino – 14; Miller – 13; Feihl – 8; Abarrientos – 7; Gayoso -5; Locsin – 4.
Purefoods (92) – Simon – 35; Santos – 23; Evangelista – 18; Yap – 6; Pumaren – 4; Codiñera – 4; Balingit – 2; Patrimonio – 0.
Quarters Scoring: 29 – 22; 59 – 50; 79 – 72; 100 – 92