Category Archives: UAAP

Green and blue clash in UAAP 79

No rivalry in Philippine sports rivals the confrontation between La Salle and Ateneo.

In academics, they wage mental warfare. In business, one school brags that Danding Cojuangco started kindergarted in 1940 and finished high school in a green-colored campus; the other school boasts of Manny Pangilinan graduating cum laude (Economics). In the halls of power, Michael Dino and Bong Go finished management courses from DLSU while Carlos Dominguez III and Silvestre Bello III received diplomas whose leather covers are colored blue. But above all, the tug-of-war is best exemplified in the arena called sports.

Yesterday at 3:30 p.m., the dream finale that both campuses envisioned became real. (I did not have time to write this piece chronicling Game 1 but will focus on their history.)

The first La Salle-Ateneo skirmish happened in 1939. In the final of the NCAA men’s championship, La Salle won, 27-23. Yes, no wrong typing there; the score in that contest 77 years ago was that low. Since then, the duel has flourished.

Since 1939, the two schools have taken turns winning. The next time they met in the NCAA finals was in 1958; on this occasion, the game was high scoring (105-103) with Ateneo claiming victory. In 1974 (the last time they’ll meet in the NCAA Finals), it was La Salle’s turn, 90-80.

When the battle shifted to the UAAP, they met four times in the championship. In 1988, ADMU bested DLSU in only one game because they held the twice-to-beat advantage. Three years later, La Salle recovered the trophy, winning the Game 3 decider, 93-88. The following year (2002), it was another third-game thriller but with Ateneo victorious, 77-70. And finally, in 2008, it was a clean two-game sweep as the Chris Tiu-led Blue Eagles (with Rabeh Al-Hissaini, Nonoy Baclao and Ryan Buenafe) won with Norman Black as head coach. It would be the start of an incredible five-year winning streak for the Blue Eagles.

The next year, in 2013, who would dethrone the champs to claim bragging rights? Who else but the Green Archers. In all, both squads have won eight UAAP men’s collegiate basketball crowns. How closer can this rivalry get?

With the 2016 season, La Salle dominated. Led by the MVP (and former Cebu cager) Ben Mbala, the green team were unbeatable. In the first round, they not only demolished all their opponents but embarrassed the blue squad, 97-81. That was in Oct. 2. Then, it looked like La Salle was en route to a clean sweep of the eliminations… before one team slapped their daydream and woke them up. It was, of course, Ateneo who scored the lone upset (83-71).

Who’s favored to win the trophy? Ateneo has the momentum. They won the last time they met and have won their last six elimination games and, including the escape over FEU last Wednesday, they’ve won six of their last seven. Plus, maybe the Archers are rusty after a 10-day gap before yesterday’s Game 1.

La Salle? Heavy favorites. Prior to the Final Four, they finished with a 13-1 slate. Ben Mbala is unstoppable, playing with these regular-season averages: 20.6 PPG, 16 RPG and 2.4 BPG — all first in the league. When you study the team statistics, La Salle leads in all but one of the nine departments, including points per game (88.1 average) and rebounds (52.3 per game).

My pick? It’s hard to bet against the university located along Taft Avenue. Plus, I’m biased. I studied eight years in La Salle Bacolod and suited the green jersey as we won the city-wide elementary title. Also, my uncle Rey Pages, my dad’s younger brother, played for the Green Archers in the 1970s before he turned pro with Crispa and Utex.

My head (analysis) and history (past schooling) go with La Salle. But times have changed… since our only child Jana Marie has enrolled in the campus along Katipunan Avenue, my green mind has turned blue-blooded.

MOA’s Arena

I was in Manila over the weekend. Attending the 32nd national anniversary of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), the 4,000+ attendees crowded the SMX.

What else did I see at SM’s Mall of Asia? A giant, glass-covered dome that will soon be one of the most hi-tech and applauded of coliseums in this continent.

Mall of Asia Arena gleamed and sparkled when lighted by the summer sun. Workers installed roof beams. Maintenance staff wiped the see-through walls. Construction is at full speed.

The reason? Barely a month is left before the long-awaited “We’re Open!” sign is hung from the entrance. On May 19, the 16,000-seating-capacity gymnasium will open. Two nights later, on May 21, it’s the concert of the concert queen herself, Lady Gaga.

Sports? Ahhh. NBA exhibition games? Check. Nadal-Djokovic? Double-check (meaning, we’re hopeful!). UAAP and NCAA games? Check.

This sports arena is long-overdue in Manila. The Smart Araneta Coliseum is 52 years old. That’s grandfather-age. It’s time for a world-caliber venue for sports and concerts.

According to details I obtained via Google, the venue… “boasts of floorings by Robbins Inc., Spalding basketball goals, Daktronics scoreboard—similar to what the NBA is using—and LED ribbon boards surrounding the 3rd and 5th floors. There are press rooms… and four dugouts. Another feature is the Corporate Suites—private rooms with their own restroom, mini bar, sofas and a private gallery with cinema seats. Occupants will be entitled to a season pass for all the shows.”

They have 31 of these Suites for rent. How much? They offer one- to 5-year leases between P9 to P12 million. Wow.

Ateneo scores a three-peat as FEU turns blue

Jourdan Andrew Dunque Polotan is the president of the Ateneo Alumni Association, Cebu Chapter. The color of his blood is not red or pink — it’s blue. Back in 1987, he finished his B.S. Management (Honors Program) along Katipunan Avenue on 100 percent scholarship. He considers those ADMU years as “one of the best times to be in university.” Why? Jourdan narrates: “1983 – Ninoy was assassinated. 1983 – ‘85 Protest Movement. ‘86 People Power. ‘87 Constitutional Commission. 1987: first of our back-to-back victories in the UAAP.”

Last Thursday, “Brother,” as I call Jourdan — one of my best friends from the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) — was out gallivanting in Manila. Inside the cavernous Araneta Coliseum, he cheered for Team Blue to slaughter the Green Squad. Yes, blue was Ateneo but, no, green wasn’t the usual green, La Salle. It was FEU and the game three days ago was Game 2 of the UAAP Final.

“I arrived in the Big Dome at least two hours before,” said Jourdan. “Cubao was a sea of blue. And most anyone you met in blue would smile at you, as if we were all long time friends. You just gravitated to the restos and coffee shops teeming with Blue Eagle fans — they came in all sizes, shapes and ages. Teachers, students, administration, Jesuits… A nod, a smile, it was great to be part of one big family. You were bound to bump into someone you knew.”

It was Mr. Polotan’s first UAAP Finals live game to watch. “The tickets were always very, very hard to get,” he said. “I asked a friend for a ticket or two. ‘Best efforts’ lang daw. Even before Game 1, I asked to buy tickets to Game 2. I knew Game 2 would be hard fought — the winner of Game 1 would like to finish it there, and the loser would like to extend the series. Three days… two… one day before the game, still no ticket.

“The day before the game, I flew in to Manila for a business meeting. I told my friend that nag leap of faith na lang ko. I was in Manila already. He asked for a few more hours. A few hours passed, and I got a text to call his office. Viola! I had one ticket in the Patron Section at the original price of P300.

“On the morning of game day, I had one more meeting then I rushed to Ateneo to pay and pick-up my ticket. On the way, I called one of my professors and asked him out to lunch. Of course, he said yes. Him and his wife, dear friends of mine, treated me to a Japanese lunch just across campus. Sa resto pa lang, you saw families all decked out in blue talking about the game to come. Coach Sandy (one of the assistant coaches) walked in. We said, “Hi coach.” He approached our table, shook hands and we wished him and the team luck. “Tapusin natin ito, coach,” I said. You could see in his face they were ready.

“The noise in the Big Dome was loud. The drums were so loud that you could feel your chest pounding. I sat between two total strangers, both in blue, but it was as if we knew each other a long time. We shared notes about the players and team strategy. We agreed on one thing: it seemed like our team’s strategy was to take out FEU players one by one thru foul trouble. True enough… There were ‘graduates.’”

Jourdan, a sports buff and muscular left-hander like Nadal who adores Federer, saw—from Cebu—Jack Huang and his sons. He also saw a few batch mates… “one of the more famous ones — SC spokesman/administrator Midas Marquez.” He added: “Chito Loyzaga was in the row in front of me. When we won, we were high-fiving.”

Finally, I asked why coach Norman Black, of all his victories, would call this championship–especially Game 2’s 65-62 win—Ateneo’s “sweetest victory.” Jourdan explained: “No super stars. You can say we had ONE HELL OF A TEAM. Can you imagine — not one Blue Eagle was in the Mythical 5? It means no one stood out as a superstar. Everyone was a superstar, a clutch player. You never knew who would step up and carry the team on a particular game. That is why it was so sweet. Our opponents just did not know who to pounce on.”