There are rare occasions in sports, when traditions take precedence over titles.
The passage of time has given rise to rivalries where wins can at times make a disappointing season a resonating success. Great rivalries also go beyond the game, as dinner conversations and relationships are not spared from the passion that fuels sports rivalries.
In the Philippines, the rivalry between the DLSU Green Archers and the ADMU Blue Eagles has spanned leagues and generations, with foreign diplomats having even graced the games at one point in the storied rivalry. Both the Green Archers and the Blue Eagles have won a combined 20 UAAP championships, with 13 of those titles having come in the last 20 editions of the competition.
While both La Salle and Ateneo have dominated the UAAP since the start of the 2000s, the latter has been more successful, winning nine of their 11 championships since the new millennium. It’s not just a matter of championship dominance for Ateneo as they have had La Salle’s number for the last seven games.
After what may have seemed like an eternity on the losing end for the Lasallian community, DLSU finally flipped the script. ADMU had a double-digit lead in the first half, one that usually spelled doom for the Green Archers. However, La Salle buckled down and fought back, rallying in the second half to hand Ateneo their first loss in UAAP Season 85.
The breakthrough win for DLSU came through a whole-of-team effort (35 bench points from the Green Archers bench to complement the 48 points from the starters) and some big shotmaking from Schonny Winston (a game-high 25 points). The big performance from Winston helped negate the relentless rebounding the Blue Eagles had over the Green Archers, who also relied on their defense to take ADMU out of their element.
La Salle’s last win over the Blue Eagles was nearly five years ago, which was during Game 2 of the UAAP Season 80 Finals back on November 29, 2017, which seemed a lifetime ago considering all that has happened since then. DLSU has gone through four head coaches in nearly five years, moving on from Aldin Ayo to his assistant Louie Gonzales. From there it was a brief spell with active consultant Jermaine Byrd before the return of Derrick Pumaren, who already has the longest stint with the Green Archers since Juno Sauler. Since that finals loss, La Salle missed the UAAP Final Four until last season, when Pumaren led DLSU to a third-place finish in Season 84. Meanwhile ADMU has stuck with Baldwin, who has brought three UAAP championships to Ateneo and has never missed the UAAP finals in his six years with the Blue Eagles, raising the bar for Philippine college basketball along the way.
Even when the rivalry was lopsided from a competitive standpoint, La Salle-Ateneo games were among the most, if not THE most packed preliminary round games. They may not be at the games, but alumni and fans alike will always find ways to keep tabs on the game given how deep this rivalry runs.
Now, both teams are currently 2-1 and will meet again in around a month or so. In the meantime, they will face the rest of the UAAP and build towards earning a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four. Their next matchup should come with even more implications considering how the Green Archers can sweep the series and secure an advantage in the event of a tiebreaker. A win for the Blue Eagles in round two will somewhat swing things in their favor and exact revenge on their archrivals. Some will say the Philippine’s most popular rivalry is back, but in reality, it never left.
The DLSU Green Archers may have finally beaten the ADMU Blue Eagles after what seemed like an eternity for the Lasallian community, but the rivalry was never really dead. Instead, a new chapter has been added to the story, and we should all stay tuned for what will likely be one of the more exciting parts this UAAP season.