UAAP Finals Primer: Ateneo Vs. UE
And now the two best UAAP ball clubs are left.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles are back for the second straight year in the finals, after vanquishing the UST Growling Tigers in dominating fashion. Quashing the Espana five was something everybody expected like sunrise from the east.
Speaking of the east, UE, on the other hand proved that they were more than “just another wannabee” after dismantling the second seeded FEU Tamaraws. Having to win twice over the Morayta-based basketball team, the Recto squad showed their true mettle by overcoming a team that was again under fire for game fixing controversies.
But enough of the side stories. Let’s go straight to the facts.
The Eagles are the favored team coming into the finals. Being the number one squad, Ateneo enjoys the experience of having defeated UE twice in the regular season. They have a longer winning streak compared to the Warriors, and they have a deep bench. Rotating players won’t be much of a problem for Norman Black, who is out on a mission to stamp his own indelible mark into the league’s history. Some of Ateneo’s players, like Nico Salva, Ryan Buenafe and Kirk Long have stepped up big, and eased the scoring burdens that 2008 MVP Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Eric Salamat and Jai Reyes used to carry. Nonoy Baclao is among the league’s best defense specialists. And with a prospect of repeat ahead of them, expect the Eagles to play their A-game yet.
But on the other side of this year’s grand stage for UAAP glory is the team that cannot be denied, the UE Red Warriors. They, too, are coming in strong with their own winning streak. Having just defeated a strong contender such as FEU, the Warriors confidence are in an all-time high, especially now that they have a chance to prove that the bitter finals defeat they experienced from the Green Archers, after an illustrious 14-0 regular season run, will soon be a footnote to what they are about to do today. Though they have a thinner bench, the guys in the mainstream of rotation have enough stamina to keep the tempo of the game to their side. Of their 16 ball handlers, 7 have been both to their perfect regular season and to the finals. Experience-wise, they’ve got something to say as well. They also have Val Acuna, Rudy Lingganay and Paul Lee who leveled up from their previous season’s performance, providing a strong quarterback for Elmer Espiritu and Pari Llagas. And as for coach Lawrence Tiongson, he proved that he was not just a replacement of Dindo Pumaren–he was THE replacement of Dindo Pumaren. In just his rookie year as coach, he landed his team a slot in the finals.
It’s been a very long time since these two teams met on UAAP’s grandest stage for basketball glory. If the records would bear me out, the last time they met was when Olsen Racela was still wearing blue and Jerry Codinera was still wearing red. The Eagles won that series.
The interesting thing about the UAAP Finals is that none of the season’s results will matter much coming into this closing series. Ateneo knew what that meant a couple of years ago, and it wasn’t even the finals yet. As for UE, they have a first-hand experience of such tragedy just two seasons ago.
UE is the hungrier team, wanting to end the championship drought. Ateneo, on the other hand, is the raring team, desiring to do a back-to-back win of the championship crown.
Come jump ball, it will be all out war between Ateneo and UE. It’s like the battle of our flag’s colors. The question is: who will win?
Blue is always on top of Red, but during war times, it’s Red over Blue. Still unpredictable.