THE fabled nineties rivalry between University of Santo Tomas and De La Salle is not just bound to be duplicated this decade - or even in the near future – considering the parity of teams right now in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
UST team manager Rudy Yu stressed this point as the Tigers and Archers find themselves battle for supremacy again 14 years after playing the last of their four championship showdowns in the nineties.
The two schools went against each other from 1994 to 1996, with UST winning the first three championships before La Salle finally got even in 1999.
“It was a memorable experience looking back,” admitted Yu to Spin.ph shortly after the Tigers moved a win away from winning their UAAP first title in seven years following their thrilling 73-72 win over the Archers in Game One of the best-of-three Finals Wednesday.
“But mahirap ulitin yun, especially with how the other schools are building up,” added the former UST stalwart, mentioning the likes of Ateneo, National University, Far Eastern University, and even University of the East as among the teams that continuously build up.
“What I want our players to do is focus on what is in front of us now. We only need one more win, let’s take it. Let’s not look beyond that,” he said. “Mahirap bigyan ng kumpiyansa ang La Salle.”
Yu, who played alongside current Tigers coach Pido Jarencio in the UST team that lost the 1984 finals to an Allan Caidic-led UE, also emphasized winning the championship now would be a fitting sendoff to key players Jeric Teng and Clark Bautista, who are playing their final year with the school.
“Yun ang masakit for us. Dalawang important pieces namin ang mawawala,” said the UST team manager.
“We have a new breed coming in from our Pool B. Pero syempre, it remains to be seen. How these players will jell with the system remains a question mark,” said the soft-spoken team official who owns the distribution rights of Macbeth footwear in the Philippines.
Although on the brink of winning their 19th league championship on Saturday, the Tigers should expect a lot from the Archers in Game Two, according to Yu.
“The last thing we should do is be complacent. We know how dangerous our opponent is. Kaya kailangang maging handa kami on all aspects,” said the amiable team manager.
“Aminado naman kami na quickness at experience lang ang lamang namin. Tao at skills sa kanila yun. And we will not let them recover,” he added.
With so much at stake for the Tigers, Yu is keeping his fingers crossed they can finally wrap up the series by banking on their killer’s instinct and avoid a do-or-die showdown with the Archers.
“That’s the target. And I hope we can show that."