THIS ONE'S A FIGHT TO THE END

MANILA, OCTOBER 2, 2003 (MALAYA) They had an inkling this would happen sooner of later. Now, brothers Joel and Koy Banal hope to make the most out of their showdown for all the marbles, the 66th UAAP seniors crown.

Fresh from its harrowing knockout battle with arch-rival La Salle, Ateneo battles Far Eastern University today in Game 1 of their best-of-three clash for the crown at the Araneta Coliseum.

The spotlight, however, will not be purely on the Eagles, who are bidding to retain the crown, and the Tamaraws who are trying to succeed where they failed in 2000.

For the first time in the checkered history of the country's most glamorous league, brothers will be on the opposing end of both benches, adding the needed drama to a title showdown lacking one with the exit of the Archers in a tumultous knockout match with the Eagles last Tuesday.

"History ito dahil ngayon lang mangyayari na ang magkakaharap sa finals ng UAAP ay magkapatid," said Koy, the younger of the two. "Pero lagi na naman namin itong pinag-uusapan kahit noong una pa, actually nu'ng last year pa when Joel accepted the job to be the coach of Ateneo, that whenever we go up against each other, talagang purely trabaho at laro lang.

"And everytime we meet, it will always bring out the better person among us since we will try our best to find a way to win."

The younger Banal assumed the FEU coaching post in 2000 and steered the team led by the likes of Celino Cruz, Christian Nicdao and Ronald Magtulis to the finals where they lost to the Archers.

The two teams met twice this season, with the Tamaraws posting a 72-63 win last July 17 and Ateneo getting back with an 87-63 victory last Aug. 24.

Hopes that the brotherly rivalry would be extended to another season next year have been scuttled by Joel himself who plans to concentrate on his head coaching job with Talk N Text in the PBA.

Before leaving the Eagles for good, however, the elder Banal would like to leave a winner and be only the second coach in a decade to guide the team to back-to-back victories.

"I'm sure FEU will come out very strong since they are hungrier than we are. And knowing Koy, he really prepared hard for this. But you know, from the bottom of my heart I really want to win a back-to-back championship for Ateneo," said Joel.

The last time the Blue Eagles won two straight titles was in 1987-1988 with a team led by Gilbert Reyes, Olsen Racela and Danny Francisco under coach Fritz Gaston.

"But just like Koy said, whoever wins, alam naming dalawa that the glory still belongs to God. Whatever happens we're still brothers and we love and respect each other," added the Blue Eagles mentor.

Clashing in the opening match are the juniors squads of Ateneo and Adamson. (Marivic Awitan)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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