When the Archers first hit the bullseye as UAAP champs

October 01, 2017

By Lils Liwanag


COLOR IT GREEN.  Whichever shade you prefer, it aptly describes the landscape as far as men’s basketball is concerned—at least in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) from 1989-1991.

At one hand, the green-and-gold of Far Eastern University (FEU) currently holds the record of winning the most number of championships with 20 titles since the inception of the UAAP.  It owns the proud distinction of being the first basketball champs when the UAAP started in the schoolyear 1938-39. On the other hand, the green-and-white of De La Salle University (DLSU) collected a total of 9 shortly after joining the league in Season 49 (1986-87), 3 of which were won against the FEU Tamaraws.

At its fourth year in the league (Season 52, 1989-90), and reeling from a painful championship loss to bitter rivals Ateneo Blue Eagles the previous year, the DLSU Green Archers was touted as a strong title contender despite the exodus of spitfire Dindo Pumaren to the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Teddy Monasterio, a natural shooting forward, was chosen by Archers coach Derrick Pumaren to fill in the point guard role vacated by brother Dindo.  The presence of national youth players Zandro “Jun” Limpot, Johnedel Cardel and Jonas Mariano as well as veterans Gee Abanilla, Rafa Dinglasan, Eddie Viaplana and the graduating Joey Santamaria bolstered hopes for a second shot at the Finals. 

FEU, for its part, possessed a deep bench with multi-titled PBA and collegiate coach Arturo Valenzona at the helm. It banked on the likes of Johnny Abbarientos, Victor Pablo, Pat Codinera, Andy de Guzman and other Tamaraws who had played in the semi-professional Philippine Amateur Basketball League that became the Philippine Basketball League or PBL.  Their UAAP title quest never wavered in the years after the Glenn Capacio-led squad last won it for FEU in Season 46 (1983-84).

La Salle enjoyed a 9-game winning streak in the double round robin eliminations until back-to-back defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles broke the Archers’ run, 67-61.  It went on to win its remaining matches before yielding to the FEU Tamaraws in a hard-fought last game of the double eliminations that went overtime. Entering the Finals through, the Green Archers had a twice-to-beat advantage over the Tamaraws for placing first and second at the end of the double elimination round. 

Unfazed by the Charging Tamaraws’ advantage at the end of the first half (36-31), the La Salle squad bounced back in the second half by making the most out of FEU’s early foul trouble that put them in the penalty with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.  The first championship for the Green Archers was secured after Viaplana knocked a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in the game. The final score: 74-69. 

Meantime, the DLSU community celebrated its first-ever men’s basketball title with a motorcade that launched from Taft Avenue and passed through Makati, EDSA, Katipunan/Diliman, Quezon Avenue and University Belt.  It ended promptly when La Salle students’ cars that passed Morayta Street were pelted with debris and solid objects, smashing car windshields and windows that injured several students.   Unbeknownst to both schools then, it appeared that the motorcade incident ignited the Green Rivalry that lingers to this day.  

With core members of the champion team still intact for the Green Archers’ title defense in Season 53 (1990-91) and the addition of Adi Papa, Noli Locsin and Dwight Lago as well as the returning Dickie Bachmann, its back-to-back campaign ran at full speed ahead.  La Salle won all their games in the double elimination round except for a hitch. The UAAP Board nullified 3 of the Archers’ won games in the first round where Locsin saw action. It rendered him ineligible to play that season, having lacked the residency requirement. The rule was that 2 trimesters do not equal 2 semesters, for Locsin entered DLSU during the second trimester of the previous season.  (DLSU-Manila follows a trimestral schedule.)

At the end of the double round, University of the East (UE) and La Salle’s perennial archrival Ateneo found themselves tied at second place to play a knock-out game which saw the former edging the latter for the second finals slot.  It dealt the Green Archers’ first loss in Game 1 of the Finals due to standouts Jolly Escobar, Modesto Hojilla and Ferdinand “Bong” Ravena, a teammate of Limpot and Cardel in the Philippine national squad.

With only 4 minutes to go in the second half, UE sparked a rally that cut La Salle’s lead from 14 down to 4 courtesy of Hojilla and Ravena.  However, championship pressure got the better of the Warriors with around 40 seconds left to game closure—with UE in possession of the ball that bounced on Ravena’s foot, forcing a turnover in favor of the Archers.  The final score was placed at 78-74, sealing La Salle’s supremacy for a second consecutive UAAP season. Besides that, the win was a moment of truth for coach Pumaren who outwitted his former mentor Roehl Nadurata of their UE Warrior glory days of old.

Season 54 (1991-92) highlighted the return of the Green Rivalry with a much-matured Abarrientos and  Pablo leading the FEU Tamaraw herd against the band of Archers spearheaded by back-to-back UAAP MVP Limpot. The Finals battle between FEU and La Salle was (again) arranged by virtue of the Archers advancing into the championship round first while the Tamaraws edged the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Glowing Goldies for the right to challenge the back-to-back champions.  

DLSU only needed a win to take the UAAP title for the third consecutive year.  As a matter of fact, the Green Archers went on to win, the score ending 80-77. However, the outcome of the match on October 5, 1991 was placed under protest by FEU officials and the awarding of a third straight crown to La Salle was deferred.  

The issue of the protest was that at 2:26 remaining in the game with La Salle on top, Archer Tony Espinosa overstayed for a few seconds on the court after committing his fifth final foul.  Oversight on the part of table officials caused Tamaraws’ team management to point out the error and play was delayed for about five minutes.  When play resumed, table officials failed to call out the necessary technical foul on La Salle. 

After two days of deliberation, the UAAP board upheld FEU’s protest and thus ordered the replay of the championship game and set the date on October 12, 1991 at the Araneta Coliseum. The Green Archers did not show up that day and the UAAP board declared the Tamaraws as Season 54 champions.  The controversial win was then elevated to the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) and FIBA which recognized La Salle as the rightful champion.  But to this day, FEU is recorded as the 1991-92 UAAP title holder.

The incidents of 1989 and 1991 stoked up the flame of the Green Rivalry in later years, including those played in pre-season tournaments. The Tamaraws and Archers would face each other 5 more times for the championship (1997, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2005 and even 6 times after the Final Four was instituted in the following UAAP Season 55 (1992-93). Include the two playoff matches in 1992 (for the second finals berth) and 2012 (for the 4th semifinal seed), then you get a total of 15 post-elimination round encounters.  



Photo of the 1989-1990 champion DLSU Green Archers courtesy of Rafa Dinglasan's Facebook