The Games That Play Us: Going Green and Gold

Green and Gold.

But not exactly what you might be thinking.

The Men's Basketball Tournament of Season 76 of the UAAP is down to its last four teams, with the FEU Tamaraws needing to beat the DLSU Green Archers today to live another day and force a knockout match, while the NU Bulldogs are reeling from their loss this past weekend to a spirited UST side.

Green and Gold -- I am picking DLSU to eventually advance at the expense of FEU (if not today, then in the rubber match), and I am picking coach Pido's Growling Tigers (channeling Katy Perry's "Roar") to win their do-or-die affair against Ray Parks's Bulldogs.

Can Jeron Teng lead the Green Archers to the UAAP Finals?

It will be a rematch of sorts -- a reminder of how the UAAP once was.

In the early-mid 90s, you see, when the Final Four was in its infancy (let's pause for a moment and remember the '93 UST quintet that mercilessly swept the competition), winning the UAAP diadem usually meant having to go through two dominant schools -- the De La Salle Green Archers and the UST Growling Tigers. In those days, future PBA cagers like Mark Telan, Don Allado, the Lago brothers (Elmer & Dwight), Jason Webb, Bal David, Dennis Espino, Rey Evangelista, Chris Cantonjos, Gerard Francisco, Dale Singson, and several others donned the Green & White of La Salle and the Black & Gold of UST. 

Here's a vintage version of Alaska head coach Luigi Trillo.
(screencap from a YouTube video clip by joesy138)

DLSU and UST met each other in the postseason frequently, highlighted by three straight Finals match-ups between the two teams -- 1994-1996. In all three championship series, UST prevailed. These culminated in their four-peat achievement in 1996 after beating DLSU, 57-54, in Game 2. Both teams would meet again in the Final Four of the 1997 and 1998 seasons, with La Salle dethroning UST in 1997 (before losing to FEU in the Finals) and beating the Tigers anew in the 1998 Final Four (this time, the Archers avenged their Finals loss and defeated FEU for the first crown in their own four-peat feat). 

Coach Aric Del Rosario and Binky Favis (seated) during
the first title in UST's 90s four-peat.
(image from

Fittingly enough, UST and DLSU closed the 90s with a memorable Finals series in 1999. That went the full distance -- UST beat DLSU in Game 1, 62-60, and then DLSU bounced back in Game 2, 81-74. The Archers secured the elusive back-to-back with a 78-75 escape in Game 3 at the Ultra.

The rivalry hasn't been as intense in the current century, but I feel that's all about to change if this projection holds true and the Archers set a date with destiny opposite the Tigers in the Season 76 Finals. 

Here are the main reasons why this will happen:

DLSU will defeat FEU because:
Almond Vosotros, Jason Perkins, and Jeron Teng have been clutch.
- For now, forget that Almond Vosotros has missed his last 24 threes. Remember, instead that he connected on a total of 7 triples in the two games prior to that dry spell. This guy can turn it on in a snap, and I wouldn't be surprised if he finds his bearings again today. As for Perkins, he has compiled 39 points and 25 rebounds in DLSU's last three games. He has just been awesome. By far the most improved impressive among the lot, though, has been Teng. The guy who was known as a brick-house-builder last season has been relatively on-target in La Salle's last three outings. He has shot 19/26 from the line, which is good for about 73%. With these three guys playing so well, I believe the smart money is on La Salle.

The Archers' discipline > Terrence Romeo's hero ball
- Coach Juno Sauler's guys have been playing like a well-oiled machine lately. DLSU averaged around 17 turnovers per game prior to the NU game last Sept. 8, but, since then, they have coughed the ball up under 13 times per outing. Clearly, the guys from Taft have been doing something right. In contrast, what proved to be effective for FEU in the first round has become its bane in the second. Despite Romeo continuing to puncture the hoop, FEU has gone 3-5 in its last eight games. The guy who has really been missing-in-action? Mike Tolomia, who shot just 5/32 (16%) in FEU's last three defeats. 

Has Terrence Romeo's hero ball met its match?

UST will defeat NU because:
Coach Pido has Parks where he wants him.
- Coach Pido Jarencio and Ray Parks are currently embroiled in a mini-wordwar, which should, by all indications, end up in UST's favor. Parks was just short of describing UST's Kevin Ferrer as a dirty player, and, well, coach Pido fired back with his usual borderline satirical treatise on how it is to play "Pinoy" basketball. Coach Pido, of course, is a veteran of these brewing… mind-games. In the meantime, Parks has yet to prove he can push the Bulldogs over the proverbial hump when the going gets really tough. I wouldn't be surprised if the Tigers do end up with the last laugh in this match-up.

Ray Parks might be playing right into coach Pido's hands.

The role players are stepping up.
- Tata Bautista, Paulo Pe, Jamil Sheriff, Kim Lo, Kent Lao, and Ed Daquioag -- they all had their moments in the sun against NU this past weekend. Bautista hit some big threes, Pe was solid in the paint, Sheriff has been a serviceable playmaker, and, well, the others  contributed in their own right. This offers a big challenge to NU's own role players, of course, but I think the emotional high of UST's last two wins will be more than enough to really push the Tigers' less heralded guys beyond their limits.

Both NU and FEU have enough talent to quash this projection, but, should UST and DLSU stay true to form, I wouldn't be surprised if the Season 76 Finals will carry Green and Golden hues.

The Growling Tigers seem to be peaking at just the right time.

Unless otherwise specified, all images are by Jan Dizon/

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