Part 7: The 2K Decade Recap – 2006
In the year out of the UAAP limelight, the Archers began early preparations for a grand comeback next season. They kept busy by participating in minor tournaments such as the Fr. Martins Cup and the Fil-Oil Flying V tournament.
This year featured a decimated lineup. Gone were Joseph Yeo, Jun Jun Cabatu, Ryan Arana and JR Aquino and in their place were Bader Malabes, Brian Ilad, Rejan Lee, Marko Batricevic, Simon Atkins and the returning PJ Walsham.
Atkins was part of the previous season’s title squad of De La Salle-Zobel. Unlike his other teammates who transferred to other schools for college, he decided to stick out wearing the green and white in the seniors level even it meant having to sit out his freshman year.
La Salle’s absence in the UAAP that year gave practically all schools a shot at the crown. Along with a badly depleted FEU team, Ateneo took the most out of this opportunity to dominate the elimination phase. Perhaps the only threat to the Blue Eagles at that stage where the UE Red Warriors. After the double-round robin, Ateneo and UE had the twice to beat edge going to the final 4. Challenging them were the UST Tigers, once a powerhouse back in the 90s but which somehow drifted into oblivion in this decade, and the Adamson Falcons who were making their first ever final 4 appearance.
Ateneo easily disposed of the Falcons in their series while UE blew a twice-to-beat advantage as they bowed to the Tigers. The Blue Eagles were favored to win this series against UST which failed to make it to the final 4 in the past 3 seasons and never made it to the championship round since 1999. Well, miracles do occasionally happen as the Tigers, mentored by rookie coach Pido Jarencio, beat the Blue Eagles in 3 games to notch their first title since 1996.
La Salle in the meantime dominated the minor tournaments as they won the Fil-Oil Flying V tournament late in the year. They also won two of the major pre-season summer leagues in 2007.
It was clear that the Green Archers were determined to make a statement in their return trip back to the UAAP.