MAJORITY of teams winning Game One of a championship series normally wind up taking home the title.
But not in a De La Salle-University of Santo Tomas match-up.
Based on their previous four title encounters, the team that won the series opener lost the championship an incredible three times.
UST came back from a Game One loss to win the crown twice in a row in 1994 and 1995, behind a team bannered by Dennis Espino, Bal David, Edmund Reyes, Henry Ong, Chris Cantonjos, Estong Ballesteros, and Dale Singson.
La Salle meanwhile, did the trick in 1999 when Dino Aldeguer hit a four-point play in regulation to force overtime and eventually win the crown in the deciding Game Three of a title series. Along with Aldeguer, the Green Archers had the likes of Don Allado, Ren-Ren Ritualo, and Francis Zamora in their roster.
The rivalry that characterized the UAAP men’s basketball tournament in the 90s formally returns on the spotlight Wednesday when Game One of Season 76 Finals is played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The series-opener is at 3:30 p.m.
The Archers have been preparing for the Finals for almost a week since ousting Far Eastern University in the Final Four last Sept. 25.
“After the win against FEU, we practiced but in general lang because we don’t know who we will be facing,” said La Salle coach Juno Sauler after the team held a light practice a day before Game One.
“After Saturday, we had hard practices, then we put the game plan in place already after finding out that we will be facing UST,” he added.
Sauler expressed readiness for Wednesday’s game despite having a one-week break, while shrugging off the history behind the Game One winners.
“To me, the difference in tomorrow’s game will be the team that prepares better in practice. It’s not the game but what you do in practice,” said Sauler.
“History, whatever it is, match-ups, has no effect on how to approach this series,” the soft-spoken coach added.
La Salle reached the Finals for the first time since 2008 when it beat FEU in the Final Four.
“They show little excitement. They are a little grounded. I know it’s the championship but they are grounded when it comes to emotion and excitement,” he said.
UST, on the other hand, is still in an emotional high after becoming the first team ranked fourth to reach the Finals by beating top-seed National University twice-in-a-row.
Coach Pido Jarencio said the team has everything to gain against La Salle in the best-of-three series.
“Walang naniwala sa amin na makakapasok kami sa finals,” said Jarencio, who also led UST to a title in 2006 as a lower seed team – finishing at No. 3 entering the Final Four, but defeated a heavily-favored Ateneo team for the crown.
Jeric Teng, a vital cog in UST’s rise after sustaining injuries early in the season, said the team is peaking at the right time.
Teng, whose return led the Tigers to win four of their last five games en route to a Finals berth, is confident about their chances.
“We’ve been playing well. Lahat ng players na pinapasok ni coach Pido, nag-ko-contribute. We play better on defense now. Ngayon, nasa Finals kami. We’ve been here before,” said Teng.