CONTRASTING fortunes, I guess this is the best way to describe the on-going Final 4 battle in the
UAAP basketball for both the men’s and the women’s side.
In the men’s side, the teams were Dela Salle, Ateneo, Far Eastern University, and Adamson with
defending champions the Green Archers already earning a finals slot after disposing of the Falcons
while Ateneo was extended by FEU in their own semis battle as the Tamaraws upset the Blue Eagles to
erase the twice to beat advantage of Ateneo.
And so, La Salle has the luxury of a few days’ rest while waiting as to who their opponent
will be between Ateneo and FEU.
Of course, UAAP would like nothing better than to see a La Salle -Ateneo finale, but then
FEU will also like nothing better than seeing a La Salle-FEU finals.
La Salle will be going for its third title in the last five years.
Of course they had their own runs in the NCAA before transferring to the UAAP, FEU has the
most number of titles at 20, the last one two years ago, Ateneo has eight already while Adamson has
only one title with Hector Calma as the star player in 1977 when I started sports writing and he was
one of my early interviewees.
UE actually has tied UST in second place with the most number of titles at 18 each though
UE had the best run of seven straight championships under Baby Dalupan from 1965 to 1971.
NU and UP, the latter powered by Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc won for the last time in
1986 under Joe Lipa.
Now, why do I say that it is a contrasting situation compared to the women’s side?
Well, the men’s teams who made it to the Final 4 except for FEU, are all at the bottom half
after the elimination round in men’s side while in the distaff side, National University is going
for its 4th straight crown and undefeated in its last 64 games, though this is the first time
without the prolific MVP Afril Bernardino in the starting line-up for the Lady Bulldogs.
Aside from NU , the other women’s teams in the Final 4 are second placed team UE, UST and FEU,
with NU, UE and UST languishing at the bottom half if we look at the men’s side of the competition.
NU is just waiting for its opponent, either UE or UST, with the Lady Warriors of coach Ai
Lebornio enjoying a twice to beat advantage against UST after finishing second to NU in the
elimination round,.Third placer UST staved off the challenge of the Lady Tamaraws in the first game in
the step ladder semis and go up against the well-rested Lady Warriors.
I researched the history of women’s basketball in the UAAP and found out that it was first
introduced but played only for two season , 1952 and 1953 with FEU winning the first two editions,
then there was a long period that women’s basketball was not played in the UAAP and it was only in
1976 when it was resurrected with UP romping off with the crown for three straight years.
I remember this time because I was already writing in 1977 and UP was powered by the likes of
Rita Henson and Elisa Concepcion and two sisters whose name unfortunately escapes my senior memory at
present, in fact UP ranks third behind UST and FEU in terms of number of titles won, UST has 11
while the Lady Tamaraws have already collected nine championship trophies with UP taking home seven
Adamson University had its own streak in recent years with a total of six championships, De
La Salle has 5 and Ateneo with two.
UE has never won a championship yet and Coach Ai and her girls will set a historical record
for UE if they get past UST then beat NU for this year’s championship.
I have been following more the women’s side rather than the men’s side for the simple reason
that I have been helping out pro bono my friend Ai in the mental strengthening development of her Lady
Warriors from the time she started with the team five years ago from a highly successful campaign
with Lyceum in the WNCAA, and have seen how the team has improved year after year coming from winless
seasons before Ai took over.
This is why I cannot but wonder how Boy Sablan from UST, who in social media is vilified by
the UST community for the Tigers’ woeful performance this year with only one win to show in 14 games,
can claim that the team is ready for next year, if after three years, a team can only show a 1-13
win-loss slate, I do not see a development.
In the case of UE, the team won two games on its first year with Ai, then four games the next
season, made it to the Final 4 on its third year, finished third last year, and this year, might just
make history, but of course, NU has its own record to protect and for any opponent against them, it
has to be an A Game, otherwise, the Lady Bulldogs will run away with its fourth straight crown.
I may be biased because of my association with Ai, but I believe UE will make it to the finals
against NU, but unless the girls can shake off from their minds their previous losses to NU, it will
be an uphill battle for the CM Recto based team , that is, if UST will not prove me wrong and go to
the finals instead.
I just hope that when the women’s finals is held, there would be more basketball fans to watch
the action, if UE makes it, I plan to clear my schedules and be there.