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Henry Liao


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Will the result of the winner-take-all Game Three of the 2013 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) menís basketball tournament between the De La Salle Green Archers and the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers be a replica of the 1999 finals?

Or will it be a different Cinderella-like ending for a No. 4 seed that has never before captured a title in the UAAPís 76-year existence?

De La Salle and UST will clash for the championship hardware on Saturday, October 13, in what is expected to produce a record-breaking attendance at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

Since 1994, when the UAAP instituted the Final Four playoffs in menís basketball, the two teams have battled each other in a best-of-three titular series a total of five times.

This also marks the fourth time that their finals matchup has stretched to the maximum three games.

In three of their four previous title encounters, the eventual winner bucked a series-opening setback by securing the second and their games.

UST turned in the trick in 1994 and 1995 and La Salle repeated the feat in 1999, which was the last time the two teams had met before this season.

In 1994, the Green Archers took the opener, 77-74, but the Growling Tigers bounced back to grab the next two games, 89-75 and 77-76.

In 1995, La Salle again posted a 1-0 lead with an 88-78 victory but UST evened the series with a 66-62 decision in the second game and subsequently retained its UAAP crown for the third consecutive year with a 67-64 squeaker in the winner-take-all Game Three.

The following campaign (1996), UST swept La Salle, 2-0, in the finals with scores of 65-60 and 57-54 (after the Green Archers won both elimination-round games) to claim the league diadem for the fourth year in a row under coach Aric del Rosario.

Del Rosario, whoís now the head coach of the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the rival National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), still held the UST mentoring reins in 1999 when UST and La Salle faced each other a league-record six times that year.

During the elims, UST triumphed in the first round, 61-59, but La Salle got back in the second, 78-69, to force a playoff with its victim for the No. 1 seed. In the playoff, the Green Archers registered an 84-79 victory to secure the top spot.

Following semifinal wins over their respective foes, UST and La Salle once more clashed for the crown. UST topped the finals series opener, 62-60, but DLSU levelled the count with an 81-74 victory in the second game.

In the sudden-death Game Three, La Salle edged UST, 78-75, in overtime to retain its UAAP title.

UST had grabbed a sizeable double-digit lead through the first 35 minutes but La Salle slowly came roaring back as the Growling Tigers were plagued by turnovers and inept free-throw shooting (notably Gilbert Lao, who this season served as an assistant to rookie head mentor Nash Racela at fourth-place Far Eastern University) in the final minutes of regulation time.

With less than three seconds left, and La Salle down by three points (67-64), Archers playmaker Dino Aldeguer, backstopped by hardworking center and two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player Don Allado and streak-shooting Renren Ritualo, deadlocked the score (67-67) when he connected on a triple while being fouled.

Aldeguer, though, missed the succeeding free throw and the game went into a five-minute extension, where La Salle outscored UST, 11-8.

UST, by the way, is the most recent team to capture the UAAP championship after trailing 0-1 in the finals. This happened in 2006 when UST, under then-rookie Tigers bench boss Pido Jarencio, upset heavy favorite Ateneo de Manila University in three games. The year also marked the last time that UST had romped away with the crown.

Statistically speaking, history favors UST in Saturdayís Game Three showdown against La Salle. During the Final Four era, 15 of the 19 previous teams that took the finals opener went on to annex the UAAP title. Then again, the four exceptions were recorded by UST (three times) and La Salle (once).

NOTES Ė Itís very important to set the tone early in Game Three. A strong start will most likely lead to success as the first two games in the series have gone to teams that established solid leads in the early goings Ė UST in Game One (21-4) and La Salle in Game Two (36-19). The opposing side made a run or two at some point but fell short eventually Ö Donít lose your focus when referees go amuck by calling quick fouls against your bigs or key men. For the bigs, letís get physical but just make sure you donít displease the almighty whistletooters by shouting ďI love your momĒ when fouls are called against you or none is called against your foe.
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Philippine Basketball


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