ONE by one, the memories came flooding back the moment Dino Aldeguer learned that University of Santo Tomas had arranged a UAAP men’s basketball Finals showdown with his alma mater La Salle.
The most cherished memory, of course, is his three-point basket against the UST Tigers that forced overtime in the deciding game of the 1999 Finals, and eventually keyed the Green Archers’ successful title defense, forever making him a hero in the eyes of the La Salle faithful.
Before that crowning glory, there were also some tough memories. He would remember the time when UST went unbeaten in three Finals matchups with La Salle from 1994 to 1996. And when he suited up, Aldeguer remembered his matchups with the overachieving Tigers.
“Yung pawis ko pag kalaban sila, my golly, balde-balde,” he recalled in a phone conversation with Spin.ph. "It’s just difficult to play UST.”
For some reason, the Tigers simply play better in the finals, Aldeguer added.
“I don’t know kung anong kinakain at dinadasal ng UST that when they get to the Finals, iba yung nilalaro,” the former Green Archer said.
That’s why when this year’s UST-La Salle Finals was set, Aldeguer was convinced the Archers will once again have their hands full against the Tigers.
“I felt that La Salle’s chances will be harder nung UST 'yung pumasok sa Finals. I think La Salle would’ve beaten NU, not taking anything away from them.”
Aldeguer also played down UST’s quest for vengeance, saying retribution should be on the other side of the turf.
“La Salle should still be the hungrier team and hindi pa payback time ito (para sa UST). In fact, payback time is on La Salle’s side kasi ilang beses kami tinalo ng UST. Momentum should be on La Salle’s side on the emotion and psychological (side).”
“There’s still much more catching-up to do for the Green Archers,” he added.
While admitting that La Salle’s eight-game winning streak is bound to end at some point, Aldeguer said streaks won’t matter in the title series.
“The law of averages can catch up, but UST is also on a winning streak,” Aldeguer said of the Tigers, who have won their last three games including two against twice-to-beat National University in the Final Four.
“Pero pag dating ng Finals, I don’t think they’re even thinking about their winning streaks anymore. What they’re thinking of is how they’ll execute the play and how will everything work.”
Like in 1999, Aldeguer predicts this series will go the distance in an “even-steven battle of well-experienced teams.”
So which team will emerge victorious?
Aldeguer, who said he hasn’t watched a UAAP game live for four years, but will make an exception this time, didn’t have to say.
“It’s an obvious answer. Green and white balloons (will fall),” he concluded without hesitation.