When UE exposed the Blue Eagle's weakness in their second game against each other this year, it triggered the end of the Ateneo Championship dream...
...and the start of their nightmares.
Because as soon as the winning streak ended, the rest of the league found themselves realizing two things about the Hail Mary team :
First: Ateneo won by an average of 2-3 points of victory. Not really a clear victory especially if the other team led the rest of the game.
Second: Therefore... It was mainly luck (yes, what other team has a Mascot like Larry Fonacier?) And luck was something that couldnt carry them through the Final Four
So, yes, they won their first seven games...
But then they didnt adjust to the loss of Larry Fonacier and even became overconfident in LA Tenorio's clutch baskets, JC Intal's third quarter blitz and even the endgame jitters that plagued all the other teams. In the end, the Blue Eagles just made the horrible mistake in complacence of thinking that the other teams in the league would just roll over and die.
The next half proved disastrous as the other teams ganged up on Ateneo... giving them a 3-6 (including the final four) scorecard, causing them to lose the #1 spot to FEU, then the #2 slot to DLSU. And now, losing the chance for another championship bid altogether.
On the other hand, another team was going through a nightmare at the start of UAAP season 67. La Salle had nothing going from them in the first half- a heart-wrenching loss to ateneo for its first game, a first-in-28-games loss to Adamson and a shakey 4-3 scorecard at the end of its first seven games.
Rumors of head coach Franz Pumaren resigning or getting fired abounded. TY tang, the main pointguard was severely and unfairly criticized for not stepping up as the next Mike Cortez (duh. get over it. Mike is gone.) JV Casio, touted as the next RenRen Ritualo (More Lasalista dreams) wasn't scoring as heavily as they initially thought and lastly, the absence of a legitimate Center punctuated the La Salle Nightmare.
Then the Archers adjusted.
TY Tang and the rest of the boys shaped up. The Big Men of La Salle started to make their presense felt in the next few games. Mac Cardona, their biggest source of firepower, dropped his bwakaw ways and started acting as a real leader on the court. Suddenly, though Mike Cortez and RenRen will never play for them again, The Archers became a team to beat once more.
Starting with a 28-point manhandling of the NU Bulldogs, La Salle never looked back. Franz Pumaren found his mojo and with the rest of the team started on what eventually became an amazing 8-game winning streak (and still winning.)
And whereas the ateneo winning streak was characterized by trailing behind their opponents in the first half, peaking at the third canto and finally finishing strong at the endgame, the DLSU style of victory was a powerful show of force in the first half and losing steam little by little in the final minutes for a double-digit win over their opponents.
However, as the wins piled up, the Archers slowly regained their championship poise. Guns that blazed in the first half kept firing until the final minutes of the game. The Archers made sure there was to be no more endgame collapse.
Thus was the story in last couple of Ateneo games.
When Mac Cardona, as his first two points of the game, slammed it in the face of a cheering Ateneo Crowd, his message was clear -- We do not fear Ateneo. We will smash your misplaced dreams of another championship stint. We will show you how to sustain an amazing winning streak. We will give you ONE BIG FIGHT.
And the rest was history. La Salle won its eighth straight game today and coerced Ateneo to give up its tickets to the UAAP championship with a 69-55 victory at the Big Dome. Gifted with an early set of defeats, the Archers are savoring the sweetest of victories now that they are peaking at the most perfect of times.
Animo La Salle!!!