PLAYERS gathered in a tight hug and coaches and team personnel were all exchanging high fives. Everyone was dousing each other with water in a festive atmosphere inside the Blackwater dugout that felt like a championship celebration.
But there was no championship trophy at the center of the raucous Blackwater dressing room. All there was were sighs of relief from happy faces who finally saw the light at the long end of the tunnel.
The Bossing ended more than a season of futility on Wednesday night when they hacked out a thrilling 101-100 win over top seed Magnolia Hotshots to finally savor once again the scent of victory.
It was the first win for the franchise after a PBA record 29-game losing streak that dated back to the 2020 Philippine Cup bubble in Clark, Pampanga.
Before its upset of the Hotshots, the last time Blackwater won a game was almost two years ago on Oct. 17 at the expense of the NLEX Road Warriors, 98-88.
“Ang hirap manalo,” said team owner Dioceldo Sy, who was repeatedly prodded by the team to watch the Bossing’s final game in the eliminations of the Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Actually I have no plans to watch the game, but the team requested me to come for the team photo for the end of the season,” he said. “I have a meeting actually in Quezon City, but I have to leave early for the team photo nga.”
Good thing, the amiable owner agreed to proceed to the Big Dome and personally witnessed the team finally ending the agony that has been a burden for the franchise the past three conferences.
“Naiiyak ako,” admitted young assistant team manager Jacob Munez in the din of the celebration inside the rowdy locker room.
“Now the monkey is off our back,” declared coach Ariel Vanguardia, the man who inherited the Bossing’s losing record at 19 games after taking over the job from Nash Racela.
Vanguardia went to lose his first 10 games with the team before grinding out the rousing win over the Hotshots made possible by Barkley Ebona's game-leading basket and Rey Suerte's last-second defensive stance against Jackson Corpuze to preserve the victory.
The Bossing waited for Vanguardia to finish his post-game presser inside the Willie Caballes press room before welcoming him inside the locker room by pouring cold water all over him.
“I think we’re a better team than just this one victory,” said the Blackwater coach.
The win was so difficult to achieve that Sy likened the experience to the UP Fighting Maroons during the time when the team was also struggling in their campaign in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
“After 29 games, I felt it was like a UP game,” said Sy, who happens to be one of the major supporters of the school.
"Yeah, it's almost the same," admitted guard Paul Desiderio, who was part of the Fighting Maroons team that went winless during its past campaigns in the UAAP.
Unlike the Maroons, the Bossing though held no bonfire to celebrate a rare victory.
A good, sumptuous dinner at a buffet restaurant nearby was all there is to remember this memorable night in Blackwater franchise history.