The UAAP Finals is where stars shine the brightest, when dynasties are built, and when history is made. It is the culmination of an entire season’s worth of highs and lows.
Every Finals series is notable in its own right, but certain factors make some years arguably more significant than others. With Season 81 upon us, let us take a look at the three most notable UAAP Basketball Finals series in the last 10 years:
Season 71 (2008): Ateneo vs. La Salle, Ateneo won 2-0
The only sweep on this short list is included here because of the storylines that led to the championship: It was the first Ateneo vs. La Salle Finals series since 2002. Childhood friends and Xavier High School standouts Chris Tiu and TY Tang facing off against each other in the biggest stage. You had Tiu returning for his final playing year with the hope of winning his first UAAP title.
JVee Casio trying to win a championship as the main man. The even-keeled Nonoy Baclao vs. the fiery and pesky Rico Maeirhoffer. The unlikely MVP season from Rabeh Al-Hussaini. Norman Black, a successful PBA coach who has never won a UAAP title then vs. Franz Pumaren, then the winningest UAAP coach in recent history. Most of all, this championship is notable as it was the first of five straight titles for the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles from Season 71 to Season 75.
Season 76 (2013): La Salle vs. UST, La Salle won, 2-1
This series holds the distinction of being the closest among all the other Finals series in the lat 10 years. Every game was decided by an average margin of 3.3 points. This La Salle vs. UST match-up was truly a classic as it is also the only series in the past decade to have been decided in overtime of Game 3.
Other storylines in the Finals: Brothers Jeron and Jeric Teng facing off against each other. UST being the first fourth-seed in the Final Four era to reach the Finals. Coach Pido Jarencio’s first trip back to the Finals since UST’s 2006 title run, his first season at the helm. Coach Juno Sauler’s first trip to the finals in his first season for La Salle, as well as LA Salle’s first season without longtime coach Franz Pumaren.
Season 77 (2014): NU vs. FEU, NU won 2-1
Arguably the most notable Finals series not just of the past decade, but of recent history, has to be the Season 77 battle between the NU Bulldogs and FEU Tamaraws. Despite being three games long, the series wasn’t actually as competitive as ones from other seasons as NU blew out FEU in Games 2 and 3. What makes this series special is the story behind NU’s triumph as the ultimate underdog (no pun intended).
Prior to Season 77, the Bulldogs had not won a championship in 60 years. More than that, they had also developed into some sort of laughing stock over time for the rest of the league as they regularly finished near or at the bottom of the standings every season. Bobby Ray Parks JR.’s arrival in 2011 breathed new life into the Bulldogs program, but ultimately failed to bring a championship to NU after his three years with the school.
Upon Parks’ departure, expectations for the Bulldogs weren’t optimistic once again. But with a gritty roster led by Alfred Aroga, Gelo Alolino, Glen Khobuntin, and Troy Rosario managed to sneak in the Final Four and upset the Ateneo Blue Eagles bannered by two-time MVP Kiefer Ravena to become just the second fourth-seeded team in the Final Four era (right after UST in the prior season) to make it into the Finals. They would go on to becoming the first fourth seed to win the title.