FAR Eastern University has been chasing it for the last nine years, while National University has been going after it for six decades now.
Whatever, one thing is certain on Wednesday – one UAAP title drought will definitely come to an end.
The Tamaraws and Bulldogs fight it out for one last time this season as they clash for all the marbles in the most important game of the premier collegiate league’s Season 77.
An overflow crowd is again expected at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum by the time the final game of the best-of-three title series tips off at 4 p.m.
One of the founding members of the UAAP, FEU is going for its 20th championship in the league but the first in nine years since Arwind Santos carried the Tamaraws to the top in 2005.
NU, meanwhile, is looking to end a long 60-year wait for the school, which won its first and only men’s basketball title in 1954.
With both schools eyeing history, a sea of humanity is expected to witness the culmination of what has so far been a dramatic season that saw the league register a record 24,896 fans who watched Game Two of the series won by the Bulldogs, 62-47, also at the Big Dome.
“I think it’s expected to go the distance,” admitted FEU coach Nash Racela. “Ang maganda lang is both teams have equal chances in the final game.”
“Isang game na lang talaga,” NU coach Eric Altamirano said for his part. “You can’t look back. Our focus is on that one game.”
Their respective players being in college basketball’s biggest stage for the first time, FEU and NU have showed the wealth of experience they gained during the season is enough to perform well even under pressure.
The Tamaraws clipped last year’s champion La Salle in three thrilling games, capped by a game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer by Mac Belo in their do-or-die encounter in the semis.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, won two straight games to overcome top seed Ateneo in the Final Four.
Racela said winning over the Green Archers should augur well for the Tamaraws’ quest to overcome the Bulldogs.
“Looking back at that series against La Salle, we won the first game, gave us a cushion, they came back, then we won the final game. We want the same result,” said the Gilas Pilipinas deputy coach.
Altamirano has also seen how the Bulldogs have turned from boys to men over the course of the season.
“We’ve had a lot of times this season that our opponent had a run and kept reminding the players to keep their poise and composure. Those games that we played really helped us handle this type of situation,” said Altamirano, a member of the UP team that won its first and only UAAP title in 1986.
Game Three will now boil down to who wants it more.
“The X’s and O’s are only there to guide you,” said Racela of the Game Three battle.
Altamirano said: “You throw all the stats out of the window. I think it will boil down kung sino ang makaka-assert nung sarili nila. Can we assert defensively? Can FEU assert themselves offensively? I think that’s the key.”