MANILA, Philippines – Two years after an epic battle in the NCAA Season 91 Finals, Aldin Ayo and Jamike Jarin matched wits once again on the basketball court.
Like he did two years ago when he led Colegio de San Juan de Letran to a stunning upset of San Beda College, Ayo again emerged ahead of Jarin – but barely. Defending UAAP champion De La Salle University had just enough ammunition to outgun National University (NU), 115-109, in a blistering track meet last Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
La Salle and NU's first meeting of UAAP Season 80 was a display of the kind of basketball preferred by the two coaches, one that is played at only two speeds: fast, and faster. It was the first time since 2006 that both teams scored over 100 points in a game, and La Salle's 115 points were the most scored by a team since 2003.
It was a battle thoroughly enjoyed by both coaches, whose similar basketball philosophies have made for entertaining games over the past couple of years.
"We have the same system, and we keep on running," said Ayo, whose squad improved to 2-0 after the game that featured 11 deadlocks and 14 lead changes. "Siguro, kung titingnan niyo 'yung mga nanonood kanina, para kang nanonood ng lawn tennis."
"It was a really exciting game," said Jarin, whose NU team is now at 1-1 after the opening week. "Personally, I enjoyed the game. Just seeing our kids compete with the best college team? It was magnificent."
For the two coaches, their first round meeting gave them a chance to once again pit their considerable coaching acumen against each other, after a two-year wait. Jarin and Ayo did not get the chance to battle in 2016, with Ayo leading La Salle to the UAAP crown while Jarin led San Beda's redemption tour in the NCAA.
With both coaches in the same league once again, however, their budding rivalry can officially continue. Make no mistake, however, Ayo and Jarin have great respect for each other, even as they try to continually one-up the other.
"Coach Jamike is a very good coach," says Ayo. "Kanina, hindi ko alam kung ano pa ilalabas ko sa bulsa ko, kasi malakas mangguyo eh. You change up on both offense and on defense, (but) he had a lot of misdirections."
"Kung kalaban mo si Coach Jamike, talagang pipigain mo 'yung utak mo," he added.
Ayo could only credit his players for successfully executing in the end game to finally allow La Salle to take control.
"Buti na lang, 'yung mga plays na tinawag namin ng coaching staff, na-execute ng mga players," said Ayo, who also lauded the Green Archers for the tenacity and resiliency that they showed against the fearless Bulldogs.
Jarin, for his part, said that their rivalry was not bigger than any league, but acknowledged that their match-ups will always be "interesting."
"It's always interesting when you coach against La Salle," said Jarin. "And Aldin, he's a really good coach. Like what you've said, he brings out the best in his players. Nakakataba ng puso. He brings out the best in me also."
La Salle's victory over NU last Saturday gave Ayo a 4-3 record over Jarin in their head-to-head meetings. They were even in the NCAA Season 91 tournament, 3-3, though Ayo of course has the distinction of leading Letran to the title.
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