A blue-green rivalry in Olongapo
by rick olivares
Last Sunday, I went to Olongapo City to watch the quarterfinals matches of the city’s national high school championships of the SM-National Basketball Training Center. This wonderful program is now on its 10th year and is an official grassroots program of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
The territory head, Cesar Lobos, told Coach Eric Altamirano and I that we were in for a treat because the city’s two arch-rival high schools – the Columban College Knights and St. Joseph’s College Crusaders – are their version of Ateneo-La Salle.
The latter, who incidentally wear green and white, are the defending Olongapo City champions. Their rivals, predictably, don the blue and white colors. When the two clash, the crowds come out. Although it does get intense, this quarterfinals clash between the two undefeated squads (both were at 4-0) brought out the crowd and well, some throwing of coins and bottle caps on the court after a foul was called late in the game on St. Joseph’s bull strong power forward center, Roland Basa; his fourth that put his side into penalty.
The Crusaders were without their center and one player. The former was nursing an injury while the latter arrived only during the second half of the match due to an unavoidable matter and wasn’t allowed to check into the match.
For two quarters, the manpower deficit didn’t seem to trouble St. Joseph’s as they raced to a pair of 14-point leads while repelling a pair of Columban uprisings. The Knights twice cut the deficit to four and three points respectively only for the Crusaders to respond with a salvo of their own that gave them more breathing room.
The Knights almost single-handedly came roaring back because of swingman Aldrin Malonzo who repeatedly picked the pockets of the Crusaders’ point guards – the eponymously named Ray Allen Calma and his 14-year old back-up Christian Nedrow – on five occasions. He also swiped the ball away from the Crusaders’ small forward Emarson Vinoya twice much to the dismay of St. Joseph’s coach, Randy Calma.
In the third quarter, sparked by some big shots by Malonzo and their court general, Kyle Cavinta, Columban finally took the lead with an undergoal and-one by Kenneth Dimalanta, 46-44. As they did in the first half, St. Joseph’s answered with a run that gave them 59-52 lead by third period’s end.
In the fourth, St. Joseph’s poor transition defense and inability to stop the drives of Malonzo and Cavinta and the medium range shots by Dimalanta and Mark Daza saw Columban wrest the lead for good. Columban held off the defending champions for a 71-69 win to go to 5-0 while their victims absorbed their first loss in five matches. They still advance where they will face opponents in the crossover semi-finals this time against undefeated Kalalake National High School (5-0) while Columban faces the 4-1 Gordon College.
Although the match was intense, the only physicality was an inadvertent elbow by Cavinta that merited a technical foul. And of course, there was that momentary game stoppage where supporters of the Crusaders threw some coins and bottle caps on the court following a foul called on Basa that put St. Joseph’s into early penalty situation in the fourth period.
Other than that, the game I’d say was marked by great sportsmanship by both squads where they helped up fallen opponents and even a few back taps after a foe nailed a huge shot.
After the match, both squads, all with genuine smiles, posed for pictures then headed out separately through the Main Gate into town for lunch. Maybe it’s also because they know they could still meet each other in the finals…. assuming they hurdle their semi-finals assignments.
Not bad for a rivalry in this northern town.