Achieving unity through hoops
What a glorious ending this week for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 81 men’s basketball tournament that drew record crowds during its last two games at Mall of Asia Arena and Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Figuring in the finals were my two tertiary alma maters: Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), where I obtained an economics degree, and University of the Philippines (UP), of which I am an MBA graduate.
Both are located along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, thus giving rise to the first-ever “Battle of Katipunan” in UAAP basketball history. Both have often topped the list of the country’s best educational institutions, having been known more for their academic credentials than for their athletic prowess.
But since the start of the 21st century, ADMU’s Blue Eagles have become a major hoops powerhouse. This, after winning back-to-back championships in 1987 and 1988, followed by their so-called “Dark Ages” that ended in 2002 with a come-from-behind victory against their long-time rivals, De La Salle University’s Green Archers.
Then came their unprecedented “five-peat” era from 2008 to 2012 and another title drought until they regained the crown last year. As this season’s defending champions, they were expected to retain the trophy because of their stellar performance during the pre-season – capped by an almost-podium finish at the Jones Cup international tournament in Taipei, where they played against top-rated professional teams and national squads from Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and North America.