UAAP Season 80 is down to its last one or two games with the Ateneo Blue Eagles taking a 1-0 lead in their Finals showdown with defending champions De La Salle Green Archers last November 25, which fans witnessed on ABS-CBN Channel 2, S+A and S+A HD, or via livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com.
As great as these two teams have been throughout the season, we cannot ignore the gallant effort of all eight teams in representing their schools.
So before we go to Game 2 action, set to be played this Wednesday (November 29) at 3:30 pm, why don’t we sit back, relax, and take a trip down the Season 80 elimination round, to relive the moments of greatness of each team? Here are the eight #GoforGreat Moments in UAAP Season 80.
The Growling Tigers had a trying season, quite a long one if we may, as they watched themselves lose close game after close game before finally breaking through on their last playdate. It was quite a sight seeing seniors like Jeepy Faundo hugging former coach Boy Sablan at the end of the game against the UE Red Warriors while entrusting the future of the program to a youngster like Jordan Sta. Ana and to an extent, veteran swingman Regie Basibas, along with big man Steve Akomo.
Alvin Pasaol may not look like the typical basketball player as he’s quite heavy on the scales, but don’t let his looks fool you as Pasaol made quite a record for himself when he unloaded 49 huge markers on the befuddled Archers, almost single-handedly towing his UE Red Warriors to victory. His scoring binge surpassed that of UE great James Yap, as well as former NU gunner, and now Letran coach, Jeff Napa, and eclipsed even Bobby Ray Parks and Kiefer Ravena’s own scoring exploits. His 49-point outburst cemented Pasaol’s cult status among fans.
The Bulldogs may have fallen short of their Final Four aspirations, but they gave that last Final Four seat a chase that almost shook the pants out of the Tamaraws down to the last playing day of the season. Staring at a 15-point deficit as the game was midway through the third, NU star JJay Alejandro decided that there’s still much to do, and took their Final Four chances by the horn. Alejandro orchestrated a backbreaking 22-2 run in the game’s last quarter and chased the Tams out of the building with a rousing 87-84 victory to keep their elimination at bay.
In a see-saw year, we saw Paul Desiderio live up to his scorer abilities and step up to the plate as his team’s new main man, especially during crunch time. His best moment, and possibly for any UAAP player this season, was when he said in their final time out with all confidence “Atin ‘to! Papasok ‘to!” against UST and then actually making the pressure-packed three point game-winner after.
Desiderio proved he is the real deal when yet again, he rose to the occasion in the dying seconds of their game against FEU with another game-winner. By that time, his in-game quote in the UST game has become his school’s unofficial slogan and is now etched in the history of UAAP forever.
Coming into the season, many tagged the Tamaraws as dark horses. They have a new coach, no star players, but big name recruits like forward Arvin Tolentino. Their remaining starter was Ron Dennison who really never evoked fear on the offensive end. However, when they managed to get into the Final Four, they flat-out reminded everybody just how dangerous they really are when the team comes together. Pitted against eliminations topper Ateneo, everyone thought they would be run over. But Tolentino and guard Hubert Cani decided that they would live another day and took charge for FEU in the clutch in a moment of greatness against their former teammates.
After struggling for several seasons, the Falcons finally broke through and soared again to the Final Four in UAAP Season 79. Coach Franz Pumaren’s squad duplicated their feat with another trip to the post-season this year behind Jerrick Ahanmisi, Papi Sarr, a resurgent Koko Pingoy, a much-improved Sean Manganti, and an electrifying crowd-pleaser in Tyrus Hill. The Falcons also gave defending champion De La Salle University a tough fight before bowing out of contention, showing they are a force to reckon with in the UAAP.
The Archers faced a tall order during their second round eliminations game against archrival Ateneo. After being beat in the first round by a solitary point, La Salle was hungry for revenge, but more importantly, they want to put a stop to the then unbeaten Blue Eagles to ensure that a Final Four will happen. Ben Mbala shook off every Blue Eagle big man that coach Tab Baldwin threw at him, powering the Archers to a 79-76 victory with 28 points and 19 rebounds. They did not just shattered the Eagles’ image of invincibility, they also prevented a step-ladder Final Four and went on to send the Adamson Falcons packing in just a single game.
No one expected the Blue Eagles to tear through the competition this year. True, they might have an intact lineup and a highly-regarded coach. But it was nowhere near screaming championship. It was a work in progress. No one averaged double figures a year ago and they we’re still just going by the discipline and execution that Tab Baldwin prided himself on. But lo and behold, Thirdy Ravena discovered his superhuman powers as he led Ateneo to victory after victory, racking up 13 straight Ws with the help of Matt Nieto, rookie Gian Mamuyac, junior Isaac Go and a much-improved Chibueze Ikeh. They may have faced a scare in the Final Four, but there’s no denying that as they pulled themselves up from the grave in the dying minutes of the rubbermatch against FEU, these guys are already great in their own rights.
As we marvel at the action and highlights of the 80th season of the country’s premier collegiate league, the scintillating Finals action resumes for more moments of greatness from the athletes who play their hearts out as Game 2 is set on Wednesday (November 29) LIVE from the mecca of Philippine championships, the SMART Araneta Coliseum at 3:30 pm on S+A, S+A HD, and via livestream on sports.abs-cbn.com. To look back on the greatest rivalries and greatest moments in the league, logon to www.uaap80.com.