A dream finale between De La Salle University and Ateneo De Manila University is on the horizon of University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 men’s basketball tournament.
It was eight years ago when the two teams met in the best-of-three finals in Season 71 with Ryan Buenafe and 6’7 Rabeh Al-Hussaini leading Ateneo to a two-game sweep of La Salle under former coach Norman Black.
That was also the start of Ateneo’s UAAP championship dynasty winning four more crowns for a total of five titles from 2008 up to 2012 seasons.
Under first year coach Aldin Ayo, the Green Archers secured the first twice-to-beat bonus in the Final Four after finishing on top of the two-round elimination phase while the Blue Eagles took the last twice-to-beat incentive the other day by winning over the Adamson University Falcons.
The Green Archers closed out the elimination round with 13-1 record while the Blue Eagles finished with a 10-4 slate.
“We know it’s not going to be easy in the Final Four because all teams are competitive, all the coaches are good,” said Ayo, who expects all rival coaches to adjust to his system. “We need to establish our system, we will back to the basics and fundamentals.”
The No. 1 La Salle will be facing the No. 4 Adamson Falcons while the No. 2 Blue Eagles will be battling the No. 3 Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws in the Final Four beginning next week.
After losing to Ateneo in the second round, La Salle came back stronger with a 73-67 win over FEU to close out its elimination round campaign.
Ateneo mentor Sandy Arespacochaga, for his part, said the Blue Eagles are not yet looking forward against La Salle in the Finals. “No,” he said through a text message to The Manila Times. “We are thinking about FEU. They are a very good team and we can’t look past them. We have to focus against them.”
“Just one game at a time,” he said.
Ateneo scored an important 73-67 win over Adamson in the last day of the elimination round last Wednesday, aborting a playoff battle for the No. 2 spot.
But two teams – defending champion FEU and Adamson – are keen of spoiling the much awaited finals dream match by winning twice against their highly-seeded opponents.
“I know FEU and Adamson both want to be in the Finals and I think we are deserving to be there,” Racela told reporters during the post game interview. “We will try our best to deny that dream because I have a better dream.”
The Falcons, on the other hand, are expected to push the Green Archers to the limit at the start of the Final Four.
Former La Salle coach and first year Adamson coach France Pumaren steered the Falcons to their first Final Four appearance since 2011 after posting an 8-6 win-loss record in the elimination round.