WHAT IF… Ateneo didn't lose to La Salle for an elims sweep in UAAP 80
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jul 08, 2020 05:12 PM
Ateneo would not have had to face FEU in the Final Four if only it come out on top of La Salle in its last game in the elimination round
History lesson: Ateneo de Manila University is the first-ever team to sweep the season - both elimination and championship rounds.
Winning each and every one of its 16 games in the eliminations and then winning back-to-back games in the UAAP 82 Finals, the Blue Eagles were perfect en route to being hailed as king for the third year in a row.
It was a momentous milestone that let all of Isaac Go, Thirdy Ravena, Adrian Wong, and Nieto twins Mike and Matt to move on from their collegiate careers on the highest of highs.
Only, they could have actually made history two years prior.
In Season 80, the blue and white won 13 games in a row to start the season.
And then, in the last game in the elims, they were thwarted by archrival De La Salle University, 76-79.
And so, Ateneo fell short of an elims sweep and an automatic advance into the Finals.
They were then upset in the first game of the Final Four by Far Eastern University before taking care of business in the do-or-die match.
In the championship round, they went toe-to-toe with the Green Archers and ultimately prevailed - winning the first of their three-peat.
However, how would the story have gone if and only if the Blue Eagles got an elims sweep?
If so, they would have jumped straight into the Finals, therefore jumping over the Tamaraws who had always given them a tough time.
If so, a stepladder playoff would have taken place, with Ron Dennison, Arvin Tolentino, and fourth-seeded FEU charging through third-seeded Adamson University led by Jerrick Ahanmisi and Sean Manganti.
If so, in the next rung, back-to-back Season MVP Ben Mbala and La Salle would have made quick work of the Tamaraws.
If so, it would still be Ateneo-La Salle in the championship round for the second straight season.
Still, if so, the Blue Eagles' record would have been perfect at that point.
Then in Game 1, well-rested Ravena and company would then impose their will on their archrivals for a convincing victory.
Mbala and Ricci Rivero would not quit just yet, however, and energize La Salle to a well-earned win in Game 2.
Game 3 would then, pretty much, play out the way it played out in real life - a close contest that had Isaac Go hitting the win-sealing three.
In the end, Blue Eagle, the king, still.
And in the end, they still don't get a perfect season.
Worse, however, is the fact that the story would have been a lot less interesting.
Without having been challenged by FEU in the Final Four, Ateneo would not have witnessed the beginning of Go's rise
Remember, it was the 6-foot-9 big man who fired a triple to send the do-or-die match into overtime.
Then in the extra period, Go made good on an impossible short stab just as he was falling to the floor to ice the game.
Put simply, a world without those shots is not a world worth living in.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.