The 2023-24 basketball season of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) marks the disruption of dynasties, welcoming new conquerors to its throne. Its storyline showcased a gruesome back-and-forth, with no clear victor from the onset, as those who championed unraveled with time.
Following vast title droughts in their program’s history, the De La Salle University Green Archers (DLSU) and the University of Santo Tomas Lady Tigresses (UST) were arguably counted out come the start of the season. Many overlooked their excellence considering other probable front-runners, though their true colors began to show when the lights shone the brightest.
Taft’s climb to the promise land
Last UAAP Championship: Season 79 (2016–17)
De La Salle University is recognizable as a formidable candidate for the chip but was underwhelming before its re-emergence in the final stage of Season 86. From their last coronation as UAAP champions, DLSU sat majority outside the final four, with their highest season finish coming in 2017-2018 in the runner-up position against their Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) rivals.
YouTube: One Sports
Taking the Green Archers under his wing for his inaugural collegiate tourney, Topex Robinson pieced together a puzzle brimming with talent and potential. Utilizing seasoned veterans and new faces under his wing, DLSU sat in second come the final four, one game behind the arguable favorites, the University of the Philippines (UP), where they would take the first-seeded Fighting Maroons to the distance. With their backs against the wall following a 30-point deficit in the first contest, Robinson’s Green Archers trampled the opposition, coming from behind in the succeeding games to claim 86’s gold, 2-1.
Notable achievements: Kevin Quiambao (Most Valuable Player, Finals Most Valuable Player, Mythical Five), Evan Nelle (Mythical Five)
Growling Tigresses return to the history books
Last UAAP Championship: Season 69 (2006–07)
In recent years, the National University Lady Bulldogs (NU) have grown synonymous with success, championing the Women’s division for seven consecutive years, though their record-breaking feat has stopped.
Enter the University of Santo Tomas’ Growling Tigresses.
UST Women’s Basketball sat comfortably as a candidate for victory, though for the past decade and a half, they sat within the Final Four standings without success. Missing out on a finals berth in Season 85 with their loss to DLSU’s Lady Archers, they capitalized on their twice-to-beat advantage against UP in this semis, routing the Fighting Maroons in two games before a goliathan force stood in their way, the NU Lady Bulldogs.
YouTube: One Sports
The script seemed to majority favor the seven-peat champions, noting their 13-1 regular season finish, though UST’s undying spirit paved the way for collegiate greatness. Reynalyn Ferrer’s utter command of the game resulted in a four-point victory in game one, as NU provided a reminder as to why they were the team to beat in the following matchup, winning 72-70, settling for a down-to-the-wire game three (and down-to-the-wire it was).
With 20 seconds left in the final quarter, a missed two-point conversion from ace Stefanie Berberabe resulted in a fastbreak-layup conversion on the other end by senior guard Nikki Villasin, giving España a 71-69 cushion and the title.
Notable achievements: Reynalyn Ferrer (Finals Most Valuable Player, Mythical Five), Kent Pastrana (Mythical Five)