The DLSU Green Archers were poised for big things in UAAP season 76. They were welcoming back most of the core from last season’s team led by reigning Rookie of the Year Jeron Teng, Norbert Torres, Arnold Van Opstal, Almond Vosotros and LA Revilla. They also added new talent to the mix with the addition of Fil-Am Jason Perkins, Bacolod standout Kib Montalbo and LSGH ace Robert Bolick.
The race for the crown in UAAP Season 76 was considered to be a wide-open with Ateneo Blue Eagles, coming off their 5th straight championship, losing a lot of their players to graduation and head coach Norman Black to the PBA. Other teams sees this as an opportunity to finally win the crown, including last year’s runner-up the UST Growling Tigers who brought back most of the team that went to the finals. Also in the mix for the championship are the NU Bulldogs, led by reigning 2x MVP Bobby Ray Parks, and the FEU Tamaraws. The last team in the mix are the DLSU Green Archers, who are coming off their most successful run in years, with the team running it back and hoping to bring the UAAP Men’s basketball crown back to Taft.
But just weeks entering the season, Gee Abanilla left his post as Green Archers Head Coach, and was replaced by former DLSU player and assistant coach Juno Sauler. There were a lot of concerns about this because of Sauler’s inexperience in the UAAP or in the PBA. It was also hard to consider how Coach Juno will be able to instill his system with less than a month to go into the season.
The Green Archers finished the first round with a disappointing 3-4 record. Inconsistency and bad flow on offense were the main issues for La Salle. They would struggle and lose against contending teams like UST, FEU, NU and UE. They finally won their first game against the Blue Eagles since 2010, but they won against a team that missed its star player, Kiefer Ravena with an injury. A lot of questions surrounded the team if they could actually make the Final Four.
The Green Archers then became a different kind of team in the 2nd round. They looked more focused, hounding teams on defense and getting a better flow on offense. The team looked like it was starting to gel. They capped off the 2nd round with a perfet 7-0 record, including another Jeron Teng game winner against Ateneo.
The Green Archers finished the season 10-4, tying for first with FEU and NU. The NU won again the tie-breaker quotient to take the #1 spot, while DLSU and FEU battle it out in a best-of-three semifinals matchup. UST grabbed the 4th spot, eliminating Ateneo in the last game of the season and end their 5 year reign as champions.
DLSU and FEU, for the 2nd straight season face off against one another. With MVP Terrence Romeo and former MVP RR Garcia leading the way, FEU was determined to make things different this season. In fact, FEU started the season perfect, 7-0 in the 1st round, but just went 3-4 in the 2nd round (The opposite record of La Salle for the 1st and 2nd Round). The Green Archers proved to be more deep and more balance against a top heavy FEU squad, winning two straight games and entering the Finals for the first time in 5 years.
The Green Archers set-up a dream finals with UST, who became the first team in the Final Four era to enter the Finals after upsetting #1 seed NU. It was also UST and DLSU’s first finals matchup since 1998, and will feature a matchup between brothers, Jeron Teng of DLSU and Jeric Teng of UST.
The series did not disappoint at all. It featured to be one of the best finals matchup in ages, along with the story line that went along with it. Both teams split the two games and both teams clearly didn’t have a clear advantage over the other. The best part of the series was the scoring duel between the Teng brothers. It was basically which of the Teng brother’s team won, one of them would win Finals MVP. The series was so good that we needed an extra period to settle the champion. In the end, it was La Salle who made the final buckets and winning in what seems to be one of the best finals game of all time.
La Salle finally did it! They finally break the 5-year drought. All those disappointing seasons long gone behind them and they were finally able to go over the hump this time.
The season finished with Jeron Teng winning the Finals MVP and leading the way for his team. But this time had a lot of help. Jason Perkins, playing in his first season with the Green Archers, provided inside-outside scoring and rebounding. That led to him earning a spot in the Mythical 5. Almond Vosotros, who was coming off the bench the past 3 seasons, was inserted to the starting lineup this year and provided scoring and outside shooting for the team. Arnold Van Opstal, became one of the most improved player, improving on his low post game and foot work, providing the Green Archers another threat on offense. The Green Archers also had LA Revilla and Thomas Torres providing playmaking and leadership and Norbert Torres, providing inside scoring and rebounding. The leader of this group, Head Coach Juno Sauler made sure his team improved throughout the year and brought the De La Salle Green Archers their 9th men’s basketball championship to Taft.
Luigi dela Paz
Arnold Van Opstal