The Ateneo Blue Eagles and the UST Growling Tigers dispatched their first round opponents in last Saturday’s Final Four matchups to arrange another UAAP Men’s Basketball championship showdown.
UST took care of reigning MVP Bobby Ray Parks and the NU Bulldogs in the first game, 63-57, while Ateneo won over top rookie Jeron Teng and the De La Salle Green Archers, 66-63.
A Fairy Tale Finish
Ateneo and UST first met in the finals in 2006, an epic series which UST won, 2-1. Ateneo was favored to win it all after earning the first seed with a 10-2 record and turning back the fourth-seeded Adamson Falcons in their first round tilt. UST was in third place with an unimpressive 6-6 win-loss slate, and had to win twice over the second-place UE Red Warriors to gain entry to the title match.
The Eagles edged the Tigers in the first game of the finals via a last second shot, 73-72, but was blown out by UST in the next game, 87-71. In a classic finish, UST won the third game in overtime, 76-74.
Back then, the Eagles had Doug Kramer, JC Intal and Chris Tiu, while the Tigers had Jervy Cruz, Jojo Duncil and Dylan Ababou. Norman Black was in his second year of coaching Ateneo, while Pido Jarencio was a rookie coach for UST.
The Katipunan Reign
Fast forward to 2012: Black has steered the Eagles to four straight titles that began in 2008, while Jarencio and the Tigers mustered only three fourth-place finishes.
Ateneo is in familiar territory with another first place finish after the eliminations, holding an ominously similar 10-2 record, only blemished by losses to UE and UST, the same teams that beat the Eagles before the postseason in 2006. And if you're really into ominous sign (which also means you're a UST fan), know that Ateneo’s losses to UE in 2006 and 2012 were both in the second round of the regular season. Hala!
Return of the Tiger
All of UST’s Final Four appearances since their 2006 championship have been dismissed by Ateneo, the last one coming in last year’s contest, when the first-place Eagles foiled fourth-seed UST’s upset bid, 69-66.
This year though, UST gained the second seed with a 10-4 record, their best finish since tying DLSU with an 11-3 slate in 1999. The Tigers also broke a 12-game losing streak to the Eagles that started in 2007, winning their first matchup this season after coming back from a fifteen-point halftime deficit. Their second meeting was a controversial win by Ateneo, a game which UST put in protest, but was denied by the UAAP board.
Who has the edge?
The tacticians remained, the players have changed, but the intensity remains the same. Ateneo and UST will have another classic three-game series in the finals of the UAAP Men’s Basketball tournament. That we're very sure of.
But who has the edge in their matchup? We’ll answer that after a review of their last two games:
July 19, 2012 - UST 71, Ateneo 70
The Tigers scored 30 points in the third quarter to get over a fifteen-point deficit after two quarters, pulling off an upset win over the Eagles.
UST: Mariano 21, Teng 16, Abdul 14, Fortuna 11
Ateneo: Ravena 19, Salva 17, Slaughter 9, Tiongson 8
September 16, 2012 – Ateneo 68, UST 66
UST center Karim Abdul was called for a foul and a goaltending violation on Ryan Buenafe’s drive with five seconds remaining, giving Ateneo a close win.
Ateneo: Ravena 18, Tiongson 13, Buenafe 11, Slaughter 10, Sumalinog 7, Salva 6
UST: Abdul 22, Teng 12, Mariano 9, Fortuna 8, Ferrer 8, Bautista 7
NEXT: The Matchups