La Salle and FEU: The UAAP’s most Underrated Rivalry

The De La Salle Green Archers open up their UAAP title defense tomorrow against the FEU Tamaraws. The team though will be short-handed coming into this contest as Ben Mbala is currently competing for his home country Cameroon in Tunisia while team captain Kib Montalbo is unlikely to play as he is recovering from an illness. Nevertheless, the team still has enough firepower to withstand the absence of these two players. After that incident in Davao, you can bet that they will go all out and play with a lot of fire and tenacity to start the season with a win.

Speaking of that brawl that happened a few weeks ago, many say that this event could very well be the start of an emerging rivalry between La Salle and FEU. But looking back even before this, games between these two squads have already been physical and intense. For the Green Archers, it’s often against these Tamaraws that they run into a lot of squabbles, heated exchanges and some drama off the court.

Historically, it’s Ateneo that we consider as our archrival. But beyond the media hype, trash-talk and bragging rights among fans, the games against the Blue Eagles these past several seasons are rather clean. Though highly competitive, we don’t seem to see much hate between the players anymore.

For a time, La Salle had a serious rivalry with UST during the most part of the 90s. The older generation will never forget the time when the team lost to the Tigers in three consecutive finals in heartbreaking fashion. The Green Archers finally got some payback by beating them in back-to-back final four match-ups before ending the decade with a miraculous win in the finals. The rivalry has since died down.

For La Salle and FEU, the hate between these two teams isn’t new. It has already been there a long time ago. This rivalry is old yet flies under the radar from mainstream media.

No other team has given the Green Archers so many intense hardcourt battles than the Tamraws. Since the UAAP became an 8-school league 30 years ago, La Salle and FEU have figured in the most number of finals and semifinals series. To be exact, these two teams faced off for the championship 7 times (1989,1991,1997,1998, 2000, 2004 and 2005) and in the Final Four 6 times (1994, 1999, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2014). If you want to add the two playoff matches in 1992 (for the 2nd finals berth) and 2012 (for the 4th semis seed) then it means they had 15 post-elimination round encounters.

While La Salle had its share of winning moments, FEU has perhaps given us the most number of agonizing setbacks. Johnny Abarrientos, Nestor Echano, Robin Mendoza, Edwin Bacani, Ronald Magtulis, Arwind Santos, RR Garcia, Mac Belo and Ron Dennison – just some of the names that either broke our hearts or had gotten under our skin.

And lastly, let’s not forget our two championships that were forfeited in favor of FEU.

The long heated feud between the Green Archers and Tamaraws has reached a whole new level entering this season. Throw away the stats for tomorrow’s game because it will all boil down to who wants it more.