Year-Ender Special: Moments That Defined NCAA and UAAP
Unpredictable — this word basically sums up this year’s college basketball — and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) did not disappoint to provide all the exciting actions and storylines for the whole season.
Of course, both leagues produced some student-athletes who quickly emerged as stars in their respective teams.
While some players and teams were able to fulfill or even exceed their ceilings, others were not able to live up to their expectations.
This year-ending article will be divided into two-parts: the “Rising Stars” and the “Beauty Behind Uncertainties”.
Beauty Behind Uncertainties
No one expected that the FEU Tamaraws would still hold on to the Final Four spot for seven straight years, thanks to the emergence of do-it-all guard L-Jay Gonzales.
On the other hand, everyone were expecting the talent-loaded UP Fighting Maroons to advance to the Finals once again after finishing Season 81 at the second spot — which earned them a twice-to-beat advantage.
However, both FEU and UP fell victim to this one team in the stepladder round — which is the UST Growling Tigers.
During UST’s Final Four run, Soulemane Chabi Yo proved that he was worthy to be crowned qw UAAP Season 82’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), but it was Renzo Subido’s clutch plays that officially marked Growling Tigers’ return to the Finals for the first time in four years.
Unfortunately, the defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles would go on to sweep their entire competition in all of their 14 games, two of which came in the Finals, to claim their third straight title.
UAAP aficionados saw Thirdy Ravena built his own legacy with three Finals MVP awards, and they also witnessed SJ Belangel proved that he is indeed Ateneo’s future star.
Speaking of undefeated, NCAA defending champions San Beda Red Lions also earned an automatic Finals berth when they finished the eliminations with a perfect 18-0 record this Season 95.
The monentum was clearly on their side, considering that Evan Nelle, James Canlas, and Calvin Oftana were part of the Mythical Team, but things were not looking bright for them.
On the other hand, Letran Knights had to claw their way in the stepladder round by defeating San Sebastian Golden Stags and Lyceum Pirates to set a date against archrival San Beda in the Finals.
The classic rival matchup ended up in a grueling three-game series, but it was Letran who took home the championship and dethroned San Beda in the process.
The Knights were simply built by second chances — where former UE rejects Bonbon Batiller and Fran Yu (who eventually took home the Finals MVP) provided quality outputs for the team, while Jerrick Balanza came out better than after a suffering a season-ending brain surgery last year.
This upcoming new decade, fans should expect another surprises and possible paradigm shifts in both leagues.