When the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball finals was about to unfold, I told one of the editors of The Manila Times that the series could become more interesting than any of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) finals in the last two years.
I was darn right, even if Game 3 of the series was the only gauge. But all told, the three games made the whole series a classic.
And the fact that the UAAP finals only had three games made it more nerve-wracking and exciting compared to a best-of-five or -seven series.
Under a best-of-three series, winning the first game becomes a must for both teams, since reversing the trend in the second game (for the losing team) would be a tall order. But if the teams in the finals split the first two games, game three becomes a winner-take-all affair. A team that wins by wide margin to even the series in the second game would usually enter the final game with a psychological edge. But after De La Salle University got back at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), 77-70, to even up the series 1-1, the Archers may have swung the momentum in their favor but they did not have the psychological edge yet.
And this showed in the third game, when UST led by as much as 15 points entering the third quarter. The UST students who filled almost half of the gallery at the MOA Arena must have thought that the Growling Tigers had the championship in the bag at that juncture. But it was not to be, for out in the court were two almost equally matched teams, and this was not a battle similar to a match between the latest United States Dream Team and dribblers from Nigeria or Angola.
Anyway, didn’t Lebron James and the Miami Heat overcome a five-point lead in the last seconds of Game 6 of the recent National Basketball Association Finals to deny the Tim Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs last season’s championship.
But the Growling Tigers never yielded Game 3 in regulation and pushed it to over time. During the dying minutes of regulation, Jeron Teng of the Archers made an error at the crucial point of the game, and I told myself “That will haunt him forever,” if DLSU lost the series.
But the younger of the Teng brothers swatted the ball from UST’s Karim Adbul as the latter drove for the basket to hopefully score the points that would have given the Growling Tigers the championship.
In over time, an unlikely emerged in Almond Vosotros of DLSU, the smallest player on the floor, who scored the key basket to give the Archers the 71-69 lead.
All told, game three of this year’s UAAP men’s basketball finals was truly a classic, and the low score of the game showed that both teams tightened up their defenses and did not make much of their shots.
When the dust settled, the traditional celebration of carrying the coach and partying on the floor was not done by the victor DLSU. Instead, members of the winning and losing team, including the coaches and staff, shook hands, embraced, consoled and gave a pat to each other. This type of behavior is truly exemplary and demonstrates the type of sportsmanship that college athletes, their fans and the people behind them should demonstrate.
While there was one hard foul in Game 3, both teams kept it cool from thereon which resulted to a game that was played very cleanly. And the fans of both squads did not resort to heckling or insulting jeers (bobo ______, or referee gago).
The presence of the Teng brothers added spice to the series, but more importantly that despite the fierce competition between them, they are still brothers. And don’t tell me that the God that UST and DLSU worship are different.
All told, the 2013 UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals wasn’t just a classic—it was a show of classy behavior between the players of the two teams and their thousands of fans. Let’s hope it would be like that in the future UAAP seasons.