In VICTORY or DEFEAT, WE are PROUD of OUR HEROES.

After 5 days of all the verbal battles off the court, even controversies shaking the relationship of both schools (even La Salle was involved in the mix). The action resumed at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for Game 2 of the UAAP Finals between the UST Growling Tigers and the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

But before the action, there was an awarding ceremony for all the individual award winners of the UAAP season. Where the Rookie of the Year award was given to Jeron Teng of the DLSU Green Archers. The Mythical Five included FEU’s Terrence Romeo, DLSU’s Jeron Teng, NU’s Ray Ray Parks, ADMU’s Greg Slaughter and UST’s own Karim Abdul, and the season’s Most Valuable Player Award once again went to NU’s Ray Ray Parks for the second straight season. One cool thing about was when Jeron Teng was awarded with the Rookie of the Year, the UST Yellow Jackets played the “Animo La Salle” cheer. Showing the respect and camaraderie between UST and La Salle.

After the awarding ceremony, it’s GAME TIME! It was a tightly-contested game as both teams battled out of the gates trading baskets and leads. At halftime, the game was tied at 29. Both teams also kept in step in the 2nd half taking leads and making comebacks for control of the game. However, all the breaks in the end game went to the Eagles as 4th year guard Juami Tiongson delivered heroics both on offense and defense where he made a big shot with under 2 minutes left in the game, and with the game at 62-65 with 7 seconds left in the 4th. the Tigers having a chance to tie the game with a three pointer he intercepted Clark Bautista’s pass intended for Jeric Fortuna as the Blue Eagles melt the clock to secure a five-peat winning over the Tigers 62-65, and also redeeming their loss to the Tigers in 2006.

Box score:

UST (62) –  Fortuna 20, Teng 9, Lo 8, Abdul 8, Ferrer 7, Bautista 6, Mariano 4, Vigil 0, Pe 0, Afuang 0
ADMU (65) – Ravena 25, Slaughter 15, Tiongson 10, Salva 8, Chua 6, Gonzaga 3, Sumalinog 1, Golla 0, Elorde 0, Buenafe 0

The 5th championship trophy for the Blue Eagles also marks the end of an era in Ateneo basketball. As head coach Norman Black, after spending 8 seasons with the Blue Eagles bids farewell with a resounding “BANG!” as he secures his 5th UAAP title and leaves the team to come back to the PBA to coach for the Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters. He also surpassed the feats of legendary UST coach Aric Del Rosario who led the Growling Tigers to four titles from 1993 to 1996 and also the legendary DLSU coach Franz Pumaren who led the Archers to it’s version of a four-peat from 1998 to 2001. However, he will not be able to surpass the feat of the legendary UE coach Baby Dalupan who led the Red Warriors to seven straight UAAP titles from 1965 to 1971(including the 1967 season where they were named co-champions with UST). It is also a sweet farewell for Nico Salva who wins his second straight Finals MVP trophy in his final season with the team, Salva alongside Justin Chua, Tonino Gonzaga and Oping Sumalinog as they are the four players who were there from the beginning of their five-peat in 2008 until this season. Also bidding their farewell for the Blue Eagles are Greg Slaughter and Ryan Buenafe as both menwill not be back next season due to eligibility. However, Buenafe leaves the UAAP with four UAAP titles including a Finals MVP award which he won in 2010, and Slaughter will leave the Eagles with two UAAP titles, and yes, there will be another Bonfire for the 5th straight season in Katipunan.

Next season, a lot of questions are in the air for the Blue Eagles, with MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan), Ateneo’s then-devoted sports patron cutting his ties with the university and coach Norman Black’s exit from the UAAP. Who will call the shots for the Blue Eagles? and how will Kiefer Ravena fare next season without Salva and Slaughter? Ateneo, would still haveplayers from this championship season. Yet they will be coming in next season very young as 6 of their veterans will leave the team at the end of the season.

As for our heroes the UST Growling Tigers, despite falling short this season. They overachieved and exceeded expectations, as most critics thoughtthe Tigers would just be in the mix for the Final Four. Nobody outside the players, the coaching staff and the Thomasian community thought the Tigers will make it to the Finals. This is a very huge learning experience for our heroes, and I’m sure they will be better next season. 

However, this is the last game for two of our heroes in the UAAP, “The Captain” Jeric Fortuna, who was the steady court general who orchestrated UST’s offense and the one delivered some of the biggest baskets this season for the team. Another player who played his final game was Melo Afuang who was a steady rebounder despite his lack of height at the power forward position. Both Fortuna and Afuang went through the ups and downs of the Tigers for the last five years. They were there when times were rough when the Tigers failed to make the Final Four in 2008 and 2010 (in which they ended the season at 4-10). They were also there when the Tigers made their resurgence last year and this season. I wish them the best of luck on their future endeavors. The chants of “Fortuna!” rained down the coliseum as the Thomasian crowd on hand at the Big Dome showed their love for the court general who led his team through every challenge that stood in their way and considered as one of the best players to ever wear a UST uniform.

THANK YOU JERIC! THANK YOU MELO!

As for the other players who will be back in the fold next year, players like Jeric Teng, Aljon Mariano, Clark Bautista, Karim Abdul, Kevin Ferrer, Kim Lo, Louie Vigil, Paulo Pe and the rest of the team. We’re sure that they will gain from this experience of being in the Finals of the UAAP, and doing it against no less than the reigning champions is something in itself an achievement. They will be back stronger and more inspired next season, as their quest to bring the glory back to España will have to wait for at least the next season. Finally to Coach Pido Jarencio, who has been marred in controversy for the past few days. He did a great job this season, because he led UST to it’s first 10+ win season since 1999 where they also finished in 2nd place in the standings before falling short in the Finals against the De La Salle Green Archers in three games. He also kept his players in check and has served as an inspiration, not only to the players, but also to the entire Thomasian community for his humbleness and humility which has won the hearts and support of the whole Thomasian community over the years. I hope he stays for next season to lead the Tigers back to the promised land. At the end of the day, In victory or defeat, we are still proud of our heroes.

Photo ©Karl Carandang

Watching the UAAP Finals this season, has been a rewarding one for me personally. Even though, the story-book ending I wished for did not happen this year. It was a great feeling to be in one with the Thomasian community inside the arena, showing their support for our heroes. From the yellow ballons on the cheer of “Go USTe!” to the fansigns and bobbleheads, to the loud cheers, and to the crowd wave which was a flashback moment from the 1990’s during UST’s legendary run of four championships. Either we celebrate in VICTORY or suffer in DEFEAT. Nothing beats the UST crowd showing their full support for the team. Even Ateneo coach Norman Black quotes:

“I coach for Ateneo but I’m in love with the “Go USTe” cheer! I hear it in my sleep.”

Also, I got to watch these games with my blockmates and friends which is a great thing for me. Knowing the fact, two years ago and last year, I never expectedto watch a basketball game with them, because back then, they do not share the same love of basketball as I do. Thank God, it happened this year, and I hope by next season, we’ll be there to watch the games again this time with more friends coming along with us.

So that concludes another season of UAAP Basketball.
Once again, congratulations to the Ateneo Blue Eagles for winning their 5th straight title.

Congratulations as well to our heroes, the UST Growling Tigers for a great season nonetheless.
See you next season!

Go USTe! One for UST! Viva Santo Tomas!
Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!
K-Smoove

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