In the mid-1980s, the Ateneo Blue Eagles had one of the most formidable lineups that powered them to UAAP titles in 1987 and 1988.
They had future PBA veterans, such as Olsen Racela, Eric Reyes and Alex Araneta, along with the likes of Mel Basa, Jojo Cabana, Bert Mendoza, Rico Santiago and Danny Francisco.
But they all acknowledged that they first had to go through the fearsome University of the East Red Warriors led by future PBA star Jerry Codiñera.
"I was obviously intimidated, Jerry was the star center at the time," Araneta said in an online interview on the "Clutchpoint" vodcast.
Reyes added: "Jerry was the primetime center, definitely one of the best."
Codiñera and the Red Warriors were one of the most experienced squads in UAAP Season 50, having won the championships in 1984 and 1985, before returning to the finals in 1986.
The Red Warriors got back to the title series in 1987, this time facing the rising Blue Eagles.
Despite Ateneo carrying a twice-to-beat advantage over UE in that series, most people back then viewed the Eagles as the underdogs.
"We were the underdogs," Basa said, "but we felt we were hungrier. I think we all depend on each other, coming from the offseason."
Reyes said Ateneo needed to gang up Codiñera to succeed.
"Personally, for me it was really a big challenge. I was playing the power forward position that time, the most important thing I really needed Alex, and the rest of our bigs," Reyes said. "Having Codiñera there was really a challenge."
Araneta said one factor that led to their success was how the Eagles prepared that year.
"We were confident because we worked the hardest in the offseason. We did a lot of sacrifice, spent a lot time out of town together, all that work really made us bond together as brothers," he said.
Cabana said that another factor going for them was his Ateneo team back then was made up of players who were part of university's title run in high school.
"Definitely UE was the favored team because of the experience, but the team that we had is the core team of the Ateneo high school that won four straight championships," he said.
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