After a disappointing 2002 campaign, the Green Archers underwent a rebuilding phase with a massive overhaul of the roster. Half of the Archers that year were neophytes while the rest had an average of only 3 years of college ball experience. Manny Ramos was the only 5th year veteran on the squad. With an obviously inexperienced cast compared to the previous years, just making the final 4 would be already a remarkable achievement for the 2003 Green Archers.
Just when everyone had ruled them out as contender, the Archers surprisingly won their first 3 games and against highly-touted squads such as UST and UE. Thanks to the backcourt tandem of Mac Mac Cardona and Joseph Yeo plus valuable contributions from rookies JV Casio, Ryan Arana and Jerwin Gaco, the team made headway in the first round losing only to FEU and defending champion Ateneo.
The Green Archers lost steam in the second round as they only won 2 games; a 3rd victory against UE was lost at the board level, which nullified a potentially game-winning Jun Cabatu shot at the buzzer. The team did not contest the decision as it was clear on tape and photos provided that the ball was still in Cabatu’s hands as time expired.
For the first time since in recent years, the Archers lost both elimination games against the Blue Eagles. Despite the team’s struggles all season long, they finished the preliminaries at 7-7 which was still good enough for a final four berth and another series match-up against their arch-rival.
Obviously the underdog, the Archers amazingly took the defending champs to the hilt before finally bowing out in the deciding game of this fight-marred series. The team finished the season in 4th place, and for the first time since 1994 was out of the finals picture. Ateneo was eventually dethroned by FEU in the title series.
Despite being a rookie-laden team that year, the Green Archers definitely overachieved by making it to the final four and being a game away from another finals appearance.
Jun Jun Cabatu