Ateneo and DLSU's rivalry, UP's rise, Pasaol's record defined swag in UAAP 80 Basketball
ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 18, 2018 04:57 PM
Ateneo is back at the mountaintop of the UAAP.
From September 9 to December 3, each and every one of the UAAP’s eight member-schools heeded this season’s call to “Go for Great.”
And now, it’s high time for all of us to join them in celebrating all the swag moments when their greatness shone through.
10) The Tigers have been tamed, but things are only looking up
University of Sto. Tomas just had the worst season in men’s basketball in its school’s history.
With only one win to show throughout the tournament, the once proud Tigers became the league’s cellar-dwellers.
Still, that one win came at the very end of the year – giving Espana a much-needed reason to hope that things will only be better.
And with a brand new coaching staff and several blue-chip recruits considering UST,
including a player said to be the next coming of Kevin Ferrer, there is nothing but a good chance of just that happening.
9) Swaggy Pumaren will never be forgotten
Derrick Pumaren has long been known as a strict coach.
The flip looked like it switched, however, as the seasoned mentor fondly called “Manong” was all smiles and good vibes.
After all, who wouldn’t be all smiles and good vibes with a wardrobe as good as this?
8) A star is born in Ricci Rivero
Ricci Rivero’s rookie season was, in one word, forgettable.
Sparingly used with the likes of Jeron Teng and Julian Sargent on top of him in the depth chart, he was unable to showcase all the skills that once made him the top talent in all of the NCAA Juniors.
With Teng and Sargent graduated, Rivero finally got the ball – and he did nothing but run with it as the undisputed breakout player of De La Salle University and the league.
Run with it, all while doing what is now his signature sidestep en route to beautiful layups or thunderous throwdowns.
7) It’s a new day in Morayta and Sampaloc – plus Espana and Recto
A Racela continued to call the shots for Far Eastern University, only this time, it was Olsen instead of Nash.
It was the same result for the Tamaraws who yet again charged their way into the Final Four.
Not as lucky with their coaching change was National University which is yet to grasp the running game of new head coach Jamike Jarin.
Even though their standing was at 5-8 at the end of the season, hope springs eternal for the Bulldogs with all of Issa Gaye, Enzo Joson, and Jonas Tibayan coming back and all of John Llyod Clemente, Darrell Menina, and Josh Sinclair coming in.
UST and University of the East can only hope that their would-be new mentors could inject the same sort of hope for next season.
6) Alvin Pasaol has a buffet in scoring
It looked to be another unexceptional campaign for UE which started the season with six losses in a row.
In that sixth loss, however, Alvin Pasaol erupted for a milestone mark 49 points up against DLSU, no less. That scoring outburst ranks inside the top five in the history of the UAAP.
The burly forward was so unstoppable that even MVP Ben Mbala was all praises for him.
From there, the Red Warriors played inspired and managed to eke out a slightly more respectable 4- 11 overall record.
With Pasaol’s exploits on the court and “Swaggy” Pumaren’s exhibits on the sidelines, the Recto- based squad became, surprisingly, one of the fun squads to watach.
5) UP’s fight is far from over
The University of the Philippines is yet to put a stop to its league-longest 20-year playoff drought.
However, for the second straight season, the Fighting Maroons registered their best finish in over a decade.
If last year’s campaign brought them a 5-9 record and sixth-place, this year’s campaign was undoubtedly better with a 6-8 record and fifth-place.
A few more wins and one more ranking better and State U may very well be back in the Final Four.
With the core of Paul Desiderio, Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan, and Jun Manzo returning and Nigerian powerhouse Bright Akhuetie, promising Filipino-Canadians David Murell and Evyn Santiago, and versatile Jaydee Tungcab arriving, another best finish in over a decade for next season is a safe bet.
4) Welcome to the Ben Mbala show
Ben Mbala missed the first two games of the season and yet, still emerged as the runaway MVP.
On the back of per game counts of 26 points in 52 percent shooting, 13.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals, he claimed 96.58 Statistical Points (SPs) – 30 better than his closest competitor.
On offense, Mbala was better than ever, showing off much-improved post moves as well as a newfound shooting stroke. At the other end, he also proved himself by locking down the likes of Paul Desiderio and Alvin Pasaol.
That is exactly why all season long, the Cameroonian was both the engine and the fuel for a DLSU side which was one win away from back-to-back championships.
3) Clutch on clutch on clutch on clutch
Isaac Go is the newest folk hero in Katipunan Avenue – with three big shots to his name in the Final Four and the Finals.
Those big shots all ultimately led to Ateneo de Manila University’s first championship in five years. He wasn’t the only Blue Eagle with a big heart, however.
Thirdy Ravena and Anton Asistio had the assists for those big shots from Go.
Matt Nieto’s clutch free throws downed archrival DLSU in the first round.
Just like they did anything and everything, it took total team effort even in the biggest of moments for the newly-crowned champions.
2) Watch out Adamson softball, here comes NU women’s basketball, winners of 64 in a row
The NU Lady Bulldogs had a perfect season – for the fourth time in a row.
That means that their record from Season 77 to 80 is 64 wins, 0 losses.
With that, the dynastic girls from Sampaloc are nine wins away from matching the longest-ever winning streak in the Seniors division; and 10 wins away from setting a record of their own.
With MVP Jack Danielle Animam and Mythical members Rhena Itesi and Ria Nabalan all back for more next year, Adamson softball’s record 73-game winning streak may very well be broken soon.
1) Blue Eagle, The King
Ateneo is back at the mountaintop of the UAAP.
Nearly sweeping the elimination round, edging out very game FEU in the semifinals, and besting archrival DLSU in the championship round, the Blue Eagles left no doubt that they deserved to be crowned as kings.
Making their feat all the more special is that they achieved it together – total team effort was what defined their title run.
Everybody from Thirdy Ravena to Vince Tolentino, from Isaac Go to Chibueze Ikeh, and from Matt Nieto and Gian Mamuyac had their time in the spotlight and all of it was well-deserved as Ateneo needed each and every one of them to be back at the mountaintop of the UAAP.
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