’06 UST, Ateneo stars share take on UAAP FinalsBy Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines—JC Intal can still recall that scene six years ago like it happened just yesterday.
He drove to the basket, got a good look and missed what could have been Ateneo’s title-clinching basket.
“It (the series) went down to that shot,” remembered the six-foot-four Intal, who was in his final year in 2006. “That’s just basketball, sometimes the shots go in, sometimes it doesn’t. But for me, given a chance, I would take that shot again.”
“It’s payback time,” said Intal, after his team San Mig Coffee opened up its PBA Philippine Cup campaign on a bright note with a 103-83 rout of Alaska Friday night.
The Blue Eagles get that shot again but now it’s in the hands of Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena, Nico Salva and the rest of the 2012 squad, which Doug Kramer, also a vital piece in 2006, sees has that key component to beat University of Santo Tomas this time around.
“I think what we lacked in 2006, the championship experience, that was the first time under coach Norman (Black) to reach the finals and this time they have four straight championships under their belts so they have the experience, they have the depth,” Kramer, who made game-winning short stab in Game 1, told INQUIRER.net.
“I think they can close this out whether in two or three games,” Kramer, who now plays significant minutes for the new-look Barako Bull.
But don’t tell that to former Growling Tigers big man Jervy Cruz, who followed up that UAAP Season 69 title with an MVP award the next year.
“Feeling ko sweep in favor of UST,” Cruz said with a smile. “They’re hungry for a title. Ateneo ang mas-pressured to win kasi nanalo na sila ng apat na sunod so expect ng tao makuha nila yung fifth.”
Dylan Ababou, Cruz’ rookie teammate back then, didn’t predict a sweep but cited that UST will have the edge in Karim Abdul because of the Cameroonian’s quickness over Slaughter.
Ababou, who had stints with the National team and is now with Barangay Ginebra, also pointed out the similarities of then and now.
“UST had Jervy then, Abdul today and so is a good point guard plus the UST community never fails to support the team.”
Both teams are evenly matched, roster-wise and given the fact that neither squad clearly won over the other.
The Tigers, the only team to really push Ateneo to its limit in the eliminations, came out on top in their first round encounter after clawing back from a 19-point hellhole en route to a 71-70 win.
The Eagles on the other hand, exacted revenge in the next round following a 68-66 victory.
Just a possession separating one team from the other and the best thing about it is that Ateneo and UST get to do it again.
“I think it’s very fitting for coach Norman to end his Ateneo career with a championship against the only team which beat him in the finals,” Kramer said.
Game 1 of their best-of-three championship series starts Saturday at the sold-out SM Mall-of-Asia Arena.