Welcome to The Rewind, where the Humblebola team looks back at the past and talks about details only a few may have noticed.
It’s September 30, 2010. The month of September is about to end. Two teams are about to wake up. One to the grim reality that they are not champions. The other that they’ve emerged as one of the few dynasties in the UAAP. All of this, because one man woke them both up.
Let’s Rewind and go back in the Araneta Coliseum with Pio Garcia on the call.
Ten seconds left on the clock, 28.2 on the game clock.
The Season 73 title, and a three-peat, is on the line for Ateneo against the FEU Tamaraws, who dominated everyone in the regular season. The score line read 61-59 in favour of Ateneo, who also lead the series 1-0, but we all know that it is never a safe lead.
The offense is not going anywhere. The HORNS set has gone awry. Ryan Buenafe ended up with the ball and is way out on the three-point line, the only area where the ultra-talented, but overweight, small forward of Ateneo never operated in.
Why would he when he only shot seven-freaking-percent in the elimination rounds?
Seven seconds left, 25 and change for the game.
Nico Salva almost overloaded the strong side when he went in for a pick. Buenafe, who has been killing the Tams the entire series, waved him off.
I got this. That was probably the exchange between the two Blue Eagles in what seemed like an eternity with Carl Bryan Cruz up on Buenafe’s grill worse than a plate of Manang’s Grilled Liempo.
I got this. It seemed as if in those precious few seconds, Ryan Buenafe, the man-child who is swag incarnate on the basketball floor, was mocking the Tamaraws one last time. And oh was it going to be one hell of adding salt to a wound in a matter of moments.
I got this. Carl Bryan Cruz, for all the Gilas hoopla he has received, is just Carl Bryan Cruz. A mere mortal who is helpless in front of a god, helpless in front of the most clutch Blue Eagle in the history of forever. There was no way Cruz will get in the way of Buenafe and the title.
Not that day.
Nor in any era.
Six seconds, for Glory or Goat.
Buenafe saw Aldrech Ramos, the reed-thin center of the Tamaraws who was playing insane all-tourney long, load up behind Cruz, an obvious attempt to slow down a possible bull rush dive from the Season 71 Rookie of the Year.
What would you do?
Horrid is not even close to Ryan’s three-point percentage. Atrocious is being too nice.
Shoot your shot.
Five seconds, immortality is mine.
Cruz did the expected. He took three steps backward, daring Buenafe to rise up and lay his brick. All the space in the world, surrendered for a man who cannot shoot to save his team’s title drive.
Or that’s what everyone thought.
See, Buenafe just oozes with swagger and confidence. He knows when it counts and when he should drill a shot.
It’s not about the percentages. It’s about the moment.
In a way, he’s like Shaq, who can’t shoot free throws but rarely misses when it’s crunch time. So what did Ryan do?
He looked Cruz straight in the eye one last time, as if mocking the dude’s decision to give him space.
I got this.
Ryan Buenafe rose up, 7% three-point shooting percentage be damned.
Man. Myth. Legend.
Face in a scowl, surveying the destruction wrought by the booming missile, all the ashen visages of the Tamaraws and the FEU crowd. The Blue and White crowd, drowning out their own bass drums to the thundering “Go Ateneo!” chants.
He flipped his jersey, baring ATENEO for everyone to see.
Are you not entertained?
Are. You. Not. Entertained?!
The man. The myth. The legend. When needed the most, he did not shrink from the enormity of it all. He embraced it. He lived it. He devoured it.
The BuenaThree, up to this day, is talked about in reverent but hushed tones, heads collectively shaking, then with a pumping of the fist the way Father Dacanay emphatically celebrated it. It is finished by a ceremonial chowing down on some glorious Manang’s Grilled Liempo, a fitting tribute to the man, the myth, the legend: Ryan Clarence Buenafe.
The Season 73 championship is one of the best titles Ateneo ever won for the generation that was spoiled by the five-peat. Having lost four of its starters, there was no way Ateneo should’ve won, not against a FEU squad that rampaged for 12-2 record.
The only one that can come close is the Gec Shot of the ’02 title team. But the swagger of the BuenaThree?