MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University wants to end the long-running dynasty of the National University Lady Bulldogs in UAAP women's basketball when they meet in the Finals of Season 85.
The Lady Archers were the last team to beat National U in the Finals, outlasting them in three games in Season 76 back when they were still led by Aracelie Abaca and Trisha Piatos.
Since then, NU has been the gold standard not just in women's basketball but in the UAAP as a whole. The Lady Bulldogs won 108 games from 2014 until 2022, a run that includes six straight championships. Fittingly, the Lady Archers also ended that streak -- the longest in UAAP history -- when they outlasted National U in overtime, 61-57, last November 23.
Now, the Lady Archers have a chance to end the NU dynasty as well. They booked their first Finals appearance since 2016 on Sunday by escaping with a 74-69 triumph against the University of Santo Tomas in their knockout game, setting up a title clash against the Lady Bulldogs.
"It's an opportunity to make history. They've been winning the championship for what, seven years now, six years? Now, we have a chance to break that record also," said La Salle head coach Cholo Villanueva.
"I think we're capable enough of breaking that as long as we believe in what we're doing, we do it the right way, we play the right way," he added.
"It's just having that opportunity, and living in that moment and being able to win it all the way."
The Lady Archers will still be the underdogs against the Lady Bulldogs, who have the benefit of a longer preparation after dispatching of their Final 4 opponent, Ateneo de Manila University, in just one game last Wednesday.
But Villanueva has first-hand experience about taking down a massively favored team in the UAAP Finals, and he already knows that his team is capable of beating National U. Their difficult series against the Tigresses in the Final 4 only made them more ready for the Lady Bulldogs, the coach said.
"When I was playing in my last year dito sa UAAP. It was the same thing. We were playing Ateneo for five games, that No. 2 spot, we played for whoever is gonna be the twice-to-beat, then we won that game," he recalled.
"Going into those different wars, different battles, it gave us maturity. Now, before we were up against a juggernaut team din, 'yung UE [University of the East] was 14-0," he added. "And then, we had a chance that first game, to get that first game, and then eventually, won it all the way."
Villanueva had been the co-Finals MVP along with JVee Casio when La Salle stunned the Red Warriors in the Season 70 Finals, after UE had won all 14 of their elimination round games. Along the way, the Green Archers played two games against Ateneo in the step-ladder Final 4 that both came down the wire.
"There's nothing impossible in the UAAP," said Villanueva as he recounted his collegiate exploits with La Salle. "That's why it's very exciting."
"So we're just here, we're gonna be celebrating tonight, and then we'll prepare for that series against NU, and hopefully really get it all the way," he added.
Game 1 of the best-of-3 series is on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
UAAP Season 85 is streaming on iWantTFC every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.