It has been two weeks since the legend of Aric Del Rosario came to a close.
And of course, the passing of the always amiable mentor fondly called "Tatay Aric" only recalled his most memorable milestone -- that of four consecutive championships for University of Santo Tomas.
In the same way that Del Rosario and the Growling Tigers lorded over the early-to-mid '90s, however, so did De La Salle University dominate the late '90s and early 2000s.
With first-time head coach Franz Pumaren at the helm, the Green Archers ran roughshod over the league for their very own four consecutive championships.
And so, from 1993 to 2001, the UAAP became a battleground for supremacy between two teams that each won four titles in a row and two teams that would ultimately go down in history.
Which four-peat was more impressive, however? This is the question ABS-CBN Sports hopes to answer in its Super Showdown.
To concretize the strengths and weaknesses of coach Aric's UST and coach Franz's La Salle when compared to one another, ABS-CBN Sports will be judging them in five categories (talent, system, level of competition, legacy, and impact) with a boxing-style 10-point must system determining the decision.
You can't win four consecutive championships without talent - and without a doubt, both UST and La Salle were filled to the brim with talent in those days.
All of Estong Ballesteros, Chris Cantonjos, Bal David, Dennis Espino, Rey Evangelista, Patrick Fran, Gerard Francisco, Henry Ong, Dale Singson, Siot Tangquincen, and Richard Yee were Growling Tigers in their four-peat.
Meanwhile, the Green Archers had Dino Aldeguer, Don Allado, Mac Cardona, Mike Cortez, Mac Cuan, BJ Manalo, Renren Ritualo, Carlo Sharma, Adonis Sta. Maria, Mon Jose, Dominic Uy, Cholo Villanueva, Willy Wilson, and Joseph Yeo in their four-peat.
Weighed against one another, La Salle had more players who became key contributors for PBA contenders in Cardona, Cortez, Ritualo, and Yeo.
UST makes up for this with consistency, however, as not only did the likes of Espino, David, Evangelista, and Yee turn into rotation players in the PBA, they did so for a longer time compared to their green and white counterparts.
More than that, the Growling Tigers hold a trump card over the Green Archers in this department in the form of national team players Espino and Evangelista.
Advantage: UST's four-peat, 10-9
In terms of name recognition, the famed "Pumaren Press" remains well-known to this day.
With dogged defenders such as Aldeguer, Cortez, Jose, Cuan, and Villanueva at the head of the attack, playing against La Salle back then was not at all a fun proposition for opponents.
Those turnovers were then quickly converted into easy baskets that, more often than not, led to wins -- a recipe for success that still works until now.
However, UST had some of the most complete teams in UAAP history during its four-peat and would most probably have had all the answers in the face of full-court pressure.
In David, Fran, Francisco and Tangquincen, the Growling Tigers had steady ballhandlers who would have been prepared to the utmost by "Tatay Aric."
And once they crossed over to their side of the court, good luck trying to stop, or even just slow down, Espino or Cantonjos at the post.
Put simply, Del Rosario's Black and Gold machine just didn't have any holes or leaks back then.
Advantage: UST's four-peat, 10-9
LEVEL OF COMPETITION
The UAAP was a gauntlet of good to great teams in La Salle's four-peat.
For sure, winning a championship -- let alone four in a row -- was a tall task back then.
Standing in the Green Archers' way was an Ateneo side that had Rich Alvarez, Rico Villanueva, Paolo Bugia, Larry Fonacier, and LA Tenorio; a Far Eastern University side that had Leo Avenido and Celino Cruz; a National University side that had Edward Asoro, Froilan Baguion, Alfie Grijaldo, and Rey Mendoza; a University of the East side that had Paul Artadi, Ronald Tubid, and James Yap; and a UST side that had Cyrus Baguio.
Through its dynasty, the Green and White had to down its archrival Blue Eagles once in the finals, the Tamaraws twice in the Finals and once in the semis, the Growling Tigers twice in the semis and once in the Finals, and the Bulldogs once in the semis,
That's not to say UST's four-peat was way easier, however.
When the Growling Tigers sat on the throne, coming for them were Adamson's Kenneth Duremdes, who averaged more than 30 points per game in 1993, and EJ Feihl; Ateneo's Vince Hizon and Ritchie Ticzon; FEU's Long David and Nestor Echano; La Salle's Tony Boy Espinosa, Elmer Lago, Alvin Magpantay, Cali Orfrecio, Mark Telan, and Jason Webb; and National University's Danny Ildefonso and Lordy Tugade.
Make no mistake, many of those names would go on to be PBA superstars themselves and the Black and Gold went through all of them and came away as winner.
It's just that, during the Green Archers' four-peat, the league was fast becoming the killer competition from top to bottom that it is today.
Advantage La Salle's four-peat, 10-8
UST's 14-0 season sweep in 1993 forced the league to change its rules that are enacted up to now.
That year saw the supposed debut of the Final Four, but with the Growling Tigers winning each and every game of the elimination round, the new format wasn't meant to be.
According to the then-league rule, a team that goes perfect through the elimination round is automatically the champion of the tournament.
And so, after that year, that rule was no more and now, a team that goes perfect through the preliminaries would still have to play in the finals.
How that UST dynasty was built also became the template for many championship cores to come as it heavily recruited outside Metro Manila.
In fact, Tatay Aric was the pioneer in bringing over talent from Pampanga, now considered one of the hotbeds of Philippine basketball, with recruits such as Espino.
In the same light, La Salle's four-peat also expanded the league's horizons abroad with the likes of Cortez and Wilson taking their talents from the US to their native land.
From then until now, foreign-based Filipino players have actually become some sort of signature for coach Franz, but there could be no doubt that he has only used it to great effect.
The Green Archers' time at the top also coincided with archrival Ateneo's rise, rekindling a rivalry that would bring all of the UAAP to greater and greater heights.
In all, however, UST just set the bar for what a team could win in the modern era, a bar that La Salle itself did its very best to clear.
Advantage: UST's four-peat, 10-9
In Taft Avenue, championships have become the standard as La Salle has taken home three more trophies since its four-peat.
In Espana, that 90s four-peat remains the glory days as UST has only been able to add one more title from there.
Meaning, up to today, the Growling Tigers' four consecutive championships from 1993 to 1997 mean the world to Thomasians.
Meanwhile, for Lasallians, that run from 1998 to 2001 is only expected of their teams -- not the consecutive championships per se, but the continued contention, at the very least.
Advantage UST's four-peat, 10-9
Final score: 48-46 for UST's four-peat
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