Unscathed Archers may just go all the way
The Green Archers of La Salle played the supreme spoilers when the University of the East Warriors became the last UAAP team to sweep the two-round eliminations during Season 70 (2007-2008) of the country’s top varsity basketball competition.
Emerging as No. 2 after the stepladder format, the Archers downed the Warriors, 64-63, and 73-64, in the best-of-three Finals Series that started 21 days after UE had clinched the first title slot due to scheduling problems and the playoffs that decided the other championship contender.
With UE officials claiming the Warriors had gone rusty because of their long wait for a challenger, organizers revised the rule the next season by stretching the title playoffs in all sports to a best-of-five and giving the “sweeping” team the bonus of an automatic 1-0 lead.
But the thrice-to-beat bonus in the Finals for an unbeaten run in the eliminations did not guarantee sure success, however. Proof of this came in Season 76 when the La Salle volleybelles proved untouchable in the eliminations only to lose four successive games to their Ateneo counterparts in the title showdown.
And so it’s back to the old rule this season 79 with La Salle again in the spotlight after the Archers lived up to preseason hype by remaining unscathed in 12 games so far.
If they repeat over their arch-rivals from Ateneo on Nov. 5 and defending champion Far Eastern on Nov. 12, the Archers automatically advance to the championship series needing just two more wins to secure the crown they last won in 2013.
In this scenario, the No. 2 team after the eliminations will dispute the second title berth enjoying a twice-to-beat bonus against the survivor of a one-game playoff between the No. 3 and No. 4 teams.
So far, the FEU Tamaraws have a solid shot at the No. 2 spot with an 8-2 win-loss record. The Ateneo Eagles are running third at 6-4 with Adamson fourth at 5-5.
Only in the event of a La Salle upset by either Ateneo or FEU could pave the way for a Final Four after the eliminations.
The Eagles bowed to the Archers in their first meeting, 97-81, with coach Aldin Ayo serving a one-game suspension and ace Jeron Teng sitting it out with an injured foot. Teng had scored 28 points when the Archers decisioned the Tams, 83-78, in the first round.
As if to underscore their unwavering strength, the Archers won their last three games before the league took an almost two-week break with a combined margin of 106 points.
They crushed the Warriors, 95-66, last week after blasting the NU Bulldogs by 25 and the University of Santo Tomas Tigers by 43, which was the biggest winning margin in the tournament since 2003.
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