Finally! After 6 long years of drought, the Ateneo Blue Eagles recaptures the UAAP Men's Basketball Championship, sweeping the highly-competitive De La Salle Green Archers in Season 71's finals. This time, it was Chris Tiu who carried the team to victory with 16 points, the team's best. Due to foul troubles, Season MVP Rabeh Al-Hussaini was constrained in the bench. This lead to surprise performances from backup big men Jobe Nkemakolam and Mike Baldos, who got 8 points each. Jai Reyes provided the game turning point with a slashing layup a little more than 3 minutes to go in the game! Rookie Ryan Buenafe showed that the Ateneo dynasty is on the way, exuding poise and excellence in the series.
This year's championship series proved that in basketball, there is really truth in the saying "the best offense is defense." This was shown by the 2008 Best Defensive Player Severino "Nonoy" Baclao, as he took away the Finals MVP. He gathered a whopping 5.5 blocks, alongside 6.5 points and 8.5 rebounds! His defensive performance this season will be unforgettable, especially with his crucial rejection of Rico Maierhoffer's shot! And the best part is that he showed sportsmanship by publicly apologizing to Rico for his taunting. Truly a man of Ateneo character.
I gotta give it to the De La Salle Green Archers. They showed they had the heart of champions and despite apparently having less talent and height this year, they gave the Blue Eagles a good competition. They defended their championship well.
It is just sad to see unsportsmanlike gestures from the other team. After the game, nobody from La Salle went to the stage to get the first runner-up trophy and medals. Coach Franz Pumaren uttered sharp words to the bad officiating. Well, probably it's just one of those very Filipino traits of "walang natatalo, meron lang nadadaya."
I was not at all happy for Rico's ouster. That way, La Sallians would have another alibi for their loss. :)
For now, Ateneans would have to enjoy its one year of bragging rights. :) Better luck next year, La Salle.
Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!