With an era in Ateneo basketball ending, one can’t help but ask — which of the last three Blue Eagles teams was the best?
Thirdy Ravena was asked this question during last Friday’s episode of The Prospects Pod, presented by Smart Sports and Cocolife and supported by Chris Sports.
The three-time UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals Most Valuable Player had a hard time answering that question saying, “Ang hirap eh kasi…” before brother and host Kiefer chimed in.
“My opinion, the team that beat the [Ben] Mbala-led DLSU was the strongest because that was the biggest test of that year,” said Kiefer, a two-time UAAP champion and MVP.
Yes, for him the Season 80 squad was better than the team that swept Season 82.
Looking back, the Season 80 Blue Eagles had a magical regular season run that saw them finish the round with a 13-1 slate.
Ateneo then had to go through the wringer in the semis. The Blue Eagles needed to eke out an 88-84, win-or-go-home, overtime victory against FEU to advance to the Finals.
On the other end, Mbala was as dominant as ever, averaging 26.0 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals during the elims. La Salle, which finished with a 12-2 slate, was on pace for back-to-back titles after quickly booting out Adamson in the semis.
Though Ateneo was able to draw first blood in the Finals, La Salle stormed back with an emphatic 92-83 victory to send the series into a winner-take-all.
Game Three ended up becoming one of the best games the league has ever seen. But big shots from Thirdy and Isaac Go in the endgame ended La Salle’s reign and started the Ateneo dynasty.
“The first one kasi was the biggest test kasi last year, the previous year to that almost same team, and now they’re facing them again then they did what people said was the impossible task — beat the Mbala-led DLSU,” said Kiefer, as the Green Archers still had Mbala but were fresh off the graduation of two-time UAAP Finals MVP Jeron Teng.
“So for me, it was that team.”
But one can’t take away the feat of the Season 82 Blue Eagles. That squad dominated the competition, winning by an average margin of 16.5 points per game.
“‘Yun nga, may point nga si Manong, pero ang hirap din i-describe ‘yung 16-0 — just the fact na wala ngang school na nakagawa nun,” Thirdy pointed out.
“Mahirap din sabihin.”
When pressed on which team is better — the 16-0 team or the last squad of the five-peat dynasty, Kiefer said:
“That’s for another day.”