La Salle coach Topex Robinson and the Green Archers.

La Salle coach Topex Robinson and the Green Archers. –MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines — La Salle honored the 1998-2001 “four-peat” teams and the 2016 squad by giving their long-awaited championship rings as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the school’s breakthrough in the UAAP Season 61.

More importantly, the five champion teams hope to inspire the Green Archers ahead of their quest to end a seven-year title drought against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the best-of-three Season 86 Finals starting on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

Mayor Francis Zamora, a member of the 1998 and 1999 teams, said he and the organizing committee of the event wanted to honor the five teams — the four-peat under legendary coach Franz Pumaren and the last team to win a UAAP title under coach Aldin Ayo — to also motivate the current batch of Green Archers to win a ring for themselves and the school.

“We hope through this ring ceremony, we can inspire the current basketball team to push themselves very hard to win the championship [this year]. Our objective is to inspire them to win a championship through this ceremony. So they will tell to themselves: I also want to be a champion and win a ring,” said former La Salle captain Zamora in Filipino.

“I think La Salle has a big chance [to win it all]. We’re peaking at the right time. Yes, at the start we were losing games that we should have won. There were times that they collapsed in the end game but it’s part of learning, part of growing up and maturing is having to lose tight games then you’ll realize how to adjust, how to correct your errors. We’re on a nine-game winning streak, we have a good momentum. Hopefully, this ceremony will push the team even harder for us to win the championship this year,” he added.

La Salle’s legendary coach Franz Pumaren, the architect of the school’s ‘four-peat’, hopes their ceremony won’t pressure the current La Salle team.

“To our 2023 team, good luck. I don’t know if this is the right time to show you what we have accomplished, baka ma-pressure kayo. I hope you don’t get pressured. I think you have all the tools, the preparation, and everything. Hopefully, the trend tonight will start the ball kicking and be successful in this year’s edition of the UAAP,” said Pumaren in his speech. ”

“This is just a testament and validation, our long overdue recognition.  I guess this batch, 98, 1999, 2000, 2001, started the winning tradition here in La Salle. They were responsible for redefining the term “angas.” This bunch of people, every time they enter the court, they were really oozing with confidence,” he added.

La Salle coach Topex Robinson admits there is pressure for the Green Archers to reclaim the crown in their first Finals appearance after six years, especially since they witnessed five champion teams earning their rings.

But instead of dwelling on the pressure, Robinson wants his wards to be inspired by their predecessors bannered by four-time champions Renren Ritualo and Willie Wilson, former two-time MVP Don Allado, Mike Cortez, Mac Cardona, Rico Maierhofer, Jeron Teng to name a few, who attended the ceremony.

“Pressure, it’s part of it. Those are the things that these former players told the current players that there’s gonna be pressure. But it’s gonna be worthwhile because they’re gonna be honored the way these guys are honored also,” Robinson told reporters. “Whether I like it or not, there’s going to be pressure. It could either stop you or really motivate you. I’m gonna choose the latter. Being a part of history, as Renrend said, minsan lang mangyari sa buhay ng isang atletang Lasalista. We’re gonna make sure that we’re gonna grab that opportunity.”

“It’s just a great honor and a privilege to be part of this family. I was watching the clips and you know, during those years back in 1999, I was a fan of the DLSU Green Archers. I got to see one of my idols Dino Aldeguer,” Robinson said. “So it’s nice to be a part of this family, a part of this community. It just brings so much honor and responsibility at the same time to really challenge ourselves and push ourselves.”

“It’s gonna be hard coming into the Finals but knowing that we have the whole De La Salle community behind us brings us so much energy and something to really fight for. Animo La Salle!”

Team Captain Ben Phillips, who attended the ceremony with his teammates, vows that the Green Archers will leave everything on the floor.

“It’s really an honor because every time we put on these jerseys in practice or games, we really feel the legacies of previous generations – the kuyas here, the titos, everybody,” Phillips said. “It’s really, really an honor, especially for those who grew up watching the De La Salle Green Archers, and now we’re finally in a place to continue the historic tradition that we have here. We’re gonna do our best this coming Wednesday to show you and continue what De La Salle can do on behalf of the team. We’ll bring it home. We’re gonna bring it home.”

Zamora, also the alumni president, was honored that they were able to give the long overdue recognition to the five champion teams.

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“Yung 98, 99, 2000, 2001, and 2016, hindi nabigyan ng rings, 2007 and 2013 nabigyan sila so syempre kaming mga oldies, mga players from before, we all feel naman na meron kaming kaunting na contribute sa De La Salle University and I felt that someone had to take the initiative to make this happen… To give recognition to the players who have sacrificed and persevered to bring honor and glory to De La Salle University by way of winning championships,” said Zamora.

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