Part 8: The 2K Decade Recap – 2007
After a one year sabbatical, the Green Archers were back in action in the 2007 season. Led by seniors TY Tang and Cholo Villanueva, the team immediately made their presence felt in the early part of the tournament. Showing no signs of rustiness, they cruised past UP in the opener and went on to score two more wins against Adamson and 2005 tormentor FEU.
Then the real challenge came against a formidable UE team which on paper was highly favored to finally end a 22-year title drought. The Archers were simply no match against the gritty Red Warriors in their first round encounter.
Hoping to bounce back after an embarrassing loss, La Salle fell again, this time to Ateneo. The loss broke a the Archers’ winning streak, their last loss coming during their opening day encounter in 2004. The team struggled to end the first round as they narrowly defeated UST and NU. It seemed that the rustiness caused by the 1-year layoff from the intense UAAP environment had finally caught up with the Archers.
The team got off to a bad start in the 2nd round as they blew a commanding lead in the final minute and eventually lost against UST thus snapping their 8 year winning streak against the Growling Tigers. The Archers bounced back to overwhelmingly defeat UP, FEU, Adamson and NU. But just as in the first round, they were again unable to hurdle Ateneo and UE, who were the teams fancied to vie for the title.
The Red Warriors were simply amazing all season long as they swept the 14-game eliminations en route to an automatic berth in the finals. La Salle, on the other hand finished at 9-5 to qualify for the playoffs together with Ateneo and defending champion UST . However, with that record, the Archers were not assured of gaining a twice to beat advantage in the step ladder semis. Ateneo loomed as the foremost threat, needing only to beat NU in their last elimination round game to claim the second spot. The prospect of facing Ateneo with a twice-to-beat disadvantage was daunting ,as the Blue Eagles were one of the two squads the Archers had not been able to defeat all season.
Just when the odds seemed stacked against the Archers chances of moving deeper into the playoffs, the Blue Eagles surprisingly were upset by the Bulldogs thus setting a playoff duel for 2nd. And on its third try, La Salle finally prevailed against Ateneo to gain the precious twice to beat advantage in the semis.
The Blue Eagles disposed of the Tigers in the first step ladder match to face the Archers anew for the right face to the Red Warriors in the championship. Needing only to beat Ateneo once, the Archers unfortunately lost Game 1 before finally disposing their arch-rival in the succeeding match. La Salle thus arranged a finals showdown with UE which incidentally was their first since 1990.
With UE simply being a cut above everybody else that season, the Archers, as the heavy underdog, would have really needed another miracle to win this series. But others may have forgotten that La Salle had been in numerous finals appearances in the past. The Archers leaned on the experience of the veterans to break UE’s winning streak at 14. Their experience, along with their determination to eradicate all the unfortunate setbacks that the team faced in recent years, was simply to much for UE to overcome. The Red Warriors did not know what hit them as they wilted in the finals.
The Green Archers eventually won the series in two games to nail their 8th mens basketball championship in the UAAP. The team that swept the elimination rounds was in turn swept in the finals. What an amazing season it was for the team- from suspension to champion.