“Again, we overachieved,” this is what Coach Franz Pumaren repeatedly said after their final game that season. “We did not execute properly. We were only a few seconds away and we could have beaten them. This series exposed how shallow the bench is.” These words seemed to be prophetic, as the Archers showed up with a weaker lineup compared to the previous year.
And shallow indeed was the Archers’ lineup in the 2005 wars. The departure of scoring machine Mac Mac Cardona, who decided to turn pro with still a year left of eligibility and dependable big man Jerwin Gaco left a very significant hole to fill for the holdovers from last campaign. The team that year was led by Joseph Yeo along with Jun Jun Cabatu, TY Tang, Cholo Villanueva and Ryan Arana.
With Yeo as the only primary scoring option, the Archers relied heavily on their full court pressure defense and sheer hustle on both ends of the court all season. Their journey in the eliminations was similar to the previous season where they struggled in the first round before breezing through everybody in the latter stretch of the tournament. Well, everybody except the FEU Tamaraws.
From the start, the Tams showed to everyone that they were dead serious in reclaiming something that they believe was snatched away from them the previous season. In fact, their main man Arwin Santos decided to forego his opportunity to turn pro that year just to have a shot at vengeance against the Archers. Santos and company simply outclassed the competition, losing only twice in the eliminations to finish on top of the leader board.
The Archers on the other hand ended the regular season tied with Ateneo and UE with an identical 10-4 card. By virtue of a superior quotient, La Salle was automatically seeded at number 2 in the final 4. They eventually faced the Blue Eagles for a finals berth. Having beaten Ateneo convincingly in all their previous matches that year, the Archers overwhelmed the Blue Eagles in the final 4 to earn the right to face FEU for the title.
Once more in the role of underdogs, the Archers fought valiantly in the finals but they were simply no match against the experienced Tamaraws. Led by Santos, as well as lefties Rizada, and Jeff Chan, FEU reclaimed the men’s basketball crown in two games. Up until the end, the Tams remained an enigma that could not be deciphered by the Green Archers.
The Archers faced an eligibility issue after the season ended, and the ensuing events resulted in the team missing out on the 2006 season.
Jun Jun Cabatu
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