The sound of the buzzer echoed throughout the San Andres Sports Complex as La Salle Green Hills celebrated its hard-fought victory over San Beda-Rizal.
It was a remarkable game that would be etched in the memories of both teams. However, for first-year head coaches Renren Ritualo of the Greenies and Miko Roldan of the Red Cubs, it was a moment of nostalgia.
Returning to 1997, Ritualo and Roldan were teammates in the Red Cubs and were also best buddies before joining different colleges.
The game was more than just a do-or-die match to book a ticket in the finals of the NCAA Season 98 Juniors Basketball Tournament.
It was a battle between friends turned rivals.
Despite the intense competition on the court, Ritualo expressed his happiness in winning against his former teammate.
“We’re barkada. Well, I’m very happy that we won,” Ritualo gushed in excitement.
Roldan, on the other hand, was grateful for the opportunity to fight against his former teammate, which reminded him of the past when they were playing along together.
“It’s a full-circle moment that we were once teammates in the Red Cubs, and now we’re opponents as coaches,” Roldan expressed.
“During the game, we’re like enemies, but after the game, we’re back to being barkadas.”
For pride’s sake, Roldan admitted that losing the chance to defend their crown and go to the finals spot was hard for him. Nevertheless, he could not be happier for his friend’s accomplishment in leading his team to their first finals appearance since 2018.
“Of course, when we’re opponents, we’re like enemies, but after the game, we’re back to being friends.
“I’m really happy for coach Renren and his team to [reach the finals]. I know it’s more painful for me to lose because he’s my friend. But on the other hand, I’m really happy for coach Ren Ren for what he has accomplished,” Roldan continued.
With the win, the job is not yet done for Ritualo as La Salle will face the top seed team, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, in a battle for the championship title. Ritualo knows that his team has to be ready physically and mentally for the Squires as they battle it out in a best-of-three format.
“Well, mentally and physically, we have to be ready for Letran.
“We know that they are the number one team here in the NCAA right now. And they are waiting for us in the finals. So we have to be ready, we don’t have a choice, but to be ready against Letran,” Ritualo bared.
As the Greenies prepare for their final showdown, they carry with them the memories of their hard-fought victory against the Red Cubs and the bond between two former teammates turned rivals turned friends.