Two years ago, La Salle’s basketball teams reigned supreme in UAAP Season 76, with the DLSU Green Archers’ improbable rise under the tutelage of then-rookie head coach Juno Sauler and the DLSU Lady Archers’ consistent showing to top all other contenders.
The feats both teams achieved are etched into the glory days of La Salle basketball and considering that the Green Archers and the Lady Archers were not the frontrunners in their respective divisions, the two Taft-based squads proved the league wrong.
Yet that was not the first time. Back track to the years 1999, 2000, and 2001, when college basketball was a little less commercialized, and when not all Men’s Basketball games were played in large-capacity coliseums such as the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. It was during the turn of the millennium that the same feat was earned by the Green Archers and the Lady Archers. They were champions, for not just one, but three years in a row, an achievement that only La Salle holds to this day. They were the teams to beat in the UAAP when it came to basketball. The Green Archers, who were then headed by the legendary collegiate coach Franz Pumaren, clinched a four-peat from 1998 to 2001. This golden era of the Green Archers saw La Salle turn the likes of Mike Cortez and Mac Cardona from rookies into stars, and breed hotshots like Ren Ren Ritualo, Dino Aldeguer, and Don Allado.
Meanwhile, the Lady Archers, who were coached by Sauler from 1999 to 2001, also achieved a four-peat, this time from 1999 to 2002. Behind the efforts of Regina Velarde, Jessica and Jessamine Manalo, and Jessica Severino-Almajose, the Lady Archers were able to achieve a feat that has yet to be repeated by any other team in the UAAP, as they hold the distinction of being the only Women’s Basketball team in the league to win four straight championships since the inception of the Final Four format.
Focus on the year 2000
But in order to come up with championship streaks — such as a four-peat in the case of the Lady Archers and the Green Archers — perhaps harder than overcoming the odds and winning a championship for the first time is defending that crown in succeeding years. With all eyes on the defending champion, more pressure arises as all the other teams study them intently in order to find the most appropriate strategies necessary to overcome them.
Hence, The LaSallian looks back at the year 2000, a year of controversies for the Green Archers as they went for their third of four straight championships, and a year of preservation and sustenance for the then-defending champions, the Lady Archers.
Technicalities and controversies
Saying that the year 2000 was not a smooth run is an understatement for the Green Archers, as before they managed to finally seize their third straight crown, they had to deal with controversies that placed them at a disadvantage. On August 23, 2000, the UAAP Board junked La Salle’s protest of their 97-94 loss in a crucial match against the FEU Tamaraws. The gist of the said protest revolves around a controversial foul called against an FEU player, Celino Cruz, in the final 4.58 seconds of overtime, which should have sent Cruz out of the game for already incurring five fouls. However, Cruz was allowed by the referees to stay on court, arguing that the foul was really called on another FEU player, Leonides Avenido. This led to a game-winning triple by Cruz, costing La Salle the match. The UAAP Board denied La Salle’s protest due to a technicality, since the governing rules back then mandated that a team protesting the outcome of a match should inform the referees at the end of the game, and have the team captain affix his signature on the score sheet. The Green Archers’ team captain was unable to affix his signature, and hence, the UAAP Board deemed La Salle’s protest invalid from the very beginning.
It was also during the 2000 season, during the Green Archers’ victorious match against UE, that Pumaren was slapped a technical foul for the first time in his entire career as a basketball coach, after resenting what he deemed was the “worst officiating” he had experienced back then.
Fortunately for the Pumaren-led Green Archers, their spirits were not impaired by these setbacks, as they were able to continue their fiery performance en route to another finals appearance. The Green Archers ultimately avenged their controversial loss, via a two-game sweep of FEU in the finals.
The drive to be better
A look at the year 2000 archives of The LaSallian regarding the Lady Archers’ title run quoted a young Sauler expressing his dismay despite a convincing win by his team against Ateneo in the first round of eliminations, “I was not really satisfied with our game. We could have played much better, but our defense in the second half was too soft.”
Indeed, similar to Sauler’s usual post-game comments today, it was the everyday drive for improvement that propelled the Lady Archers to break out with yet another successful championship finish at the end of UAAP Season 63. The silent success story of the Lady Archers, although less hyped compared to the success experienced by their male counterparts, remains to be a notable story.
The Lady Archers’ run for a second straight crown in the year 2000 saw them face several hurdles. During that season, the Adamson Lady Falcons finished the eliminations with an unbeaten record. And as per UAAP Final Four rules, Adamson’s unblemished win-loss record earned them an immediate ticket to the finals, armed with a thrice-to-beat edge. Since the La Salle cagebelles finished the elimination round at the third spot in the standings, they had to overcome the twice-to-beat FEU Lady Tamaraws in the stepladder semi-finals.
Composure was the name of the game for the Lady Archers as not only were they able to trounce FEU twice in order to barge into the finals, but they were also able to sensationally dispose of the thrice-to-beat Lady Falcons, thus successfully defending their championship.
It was a tough crawl to the top, but the Lady Archers proved that they were a force to reckon with in the league. And indeed, they were the team to beat in the women’s basketball scene.
The victorious run of the Green Archers and the Lady Archers back in the year 2000 was perhaps one of the most unforgettable moments in La Salle’s basketball history. And in a university where the community constantly expresses their support for their athletes, that season is certainly one that supporters will always find worth looking back to.