Last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum was bittersweet for Ateneans, as the Blue Eagles‘ dynasty was put to an end by the UST Growling Tigers 82-74. The loss ended the five-year reign of Ateneo in the UAAP Men’s Senior Basketball tournament, while at the same time ending their 14-year streak of Final Four berths.
It was a forgettable end to an otherwise eventful season that saw Ateneo buck an 0-3 start, endure injuries, and come within a win of the Final Four. However, a string of off-court commotions, a lack of a dependable post presence, and an early-season injury to star guard Kiefer Ravena doomed the Eagles, and for the first time in six years, the campus in Katipunan will not hold a celebratory bonfire.
The game itself received considerable hype prior to tipoff, especially after the De La Salle Green Archers defeated UST last Saturday to force a winner-to-the-Final-Four matchup between Ateneans and Thomasians. The Big Dome was virtually sold out, with half of the arena occupied in yellow and the other half blue. Even before the game began the students raged a verbal war on social media, with Lasallians even joining in the action. This social media warfare continued during and after the game, with hashtags and words related to the game trending on Twitter. Outside, both the UST and Ateneo campuses were able to show the live coverage of the game for students with ongoing classes. In addition, every news outlet gave their eyewitness account on the game.
With UST’s entry, the Final Four cast was finally complete. UST will face the NU Bulldogs, while La Salle will take on the FEU Tamaraws. The La Salle-FEU bracket will be a virtual best-of-three, with the twice-to-beat incentive on the line for Saturday’s game. Meanwhile NU will hold the twice-to-beat advantage against UST, in a rematch of last year’s Final Four matchup. The NU-UST bracket will begin on Sunday. All of the Final Four games will be seen on Studio 23 and Balls HD 167.