The Mighty Sports-Philippines has won everything, including the 2016 Jones Cup, up until Jimmer Fredette (yes, that Jimmer Fredette) did a Paul Lee on the Philippine team with no time left on the clock.
Fredette was fouled on a three-point attempt at the buzzer, and he coolly sank all three game-winning freebies to give his Shanghai Sharks the victory, and the Merlion Cup trophy. It was the only loss of Mighty Sports in two tournaments.
Speaking of pain, the University of the East Red Warriors suffered the same fate in 2007 when they cruised through the elimination round unscathed, only to fatally crash in the finals.
Leading the cast of characters who took part in UE’s beautifully tragic season were familiar names: Mark Borboran, Marcy Arellano, James Martinez, Elmer Espiritu, and a very young Paul Lee. The team won all 14 games in the eliminations with an average margin of 16 points. Their only scare came at the last game of the second round against a Franz Pumaren-coached De La Salle Green Archers. Therein lies the problem.
La Salle pushed UE to the limit (Bryan Ilad also punched Mark Fampulme in the head), but UE managed to escape with an overtime win. Their win-loss record remained unblemished. The pressure was on.
“We’re not talking about the sweep,” UE coach and Pumaren’s younger brother Dindo told reporters post-game. They’re taking it one game at a time, he said. Their ultimate goal is to win the championship, he said.
The sweep bought UE an express ticket to the finals, which meant they didn’t get to play for three weeks. Therein lies another problem.
In Game 1 of the finals against La Salle, UE found themselves down a point in the closing seconds. Off a timeout, the younger Pumaren drew the perfect play: Arellano drove inside to draw the entire La Salle defense, then kicked out to a wide open Borboran for the game-winner. It was in. Then it was out.
The Red Warriors wouldn’t get that close in Game 2, and the Archers were crowned champs.
After the uneventful series, Kuya Franz said, “If only I could give the other half of the trophy to them, I will do that because they also deserved it. But what made the difference, I think, on why we won the championship is because of our championship experience.”
The Red Warriors made history that year for making it to the UAAP Finals for the first time in 17 years. Borboran, in his last year as a Red Warrior, was named to the Mythical Team. Paul Lee would go on to become Paul Lee. Let’s not talk about the sweep.
THE ROSTER: Marcy Arellano II, James Vincent Martinez, Narciso Llagas Jr., Elmer Espiritu, Paul Lee, Kelvin Gregorio, Mark Borboran, Hezy Val Acuna, Hanz Thiele, Gino Etrone, Mark Pamfulme, Rudy Lingganay, Fadzmir Bandaying, Paul Christian Zamar