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The Games That Play Us (S76): We’re in for One Big Fight of a Season

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Tuesday, 2 July 2013 18 Comments

Please remember that the writer is a diehard Atenean. He is hurt (beyond words), but eternally (naively) hopeful.

NU BULLDOGS over AdMU BLUE EAGLES, 64-54

Seeing the Ateneo Blue Eagles play like that, especially seeing Kiefer Ravena go on the court and perform like that, was perhaps the most painful basketball-related thing I’ve had to endure ever since the Eagles lost in the UAAP Finals of ’06.

And that’s saying a lot, especially since I’ve had to endure two straight Miami NBA title runs already.

I guess there’s something virtuous about how Kief still played despite the apparent injury. I guess there’s something admirable about the Eagles’ valorous last stand featuring a flurry of baskets from former rivals Juami Tiongson and Nico Elorde (bloodied and all).

There’s always something worth emulating about scenes like that. I am reminded of the musketeers’ last charge in the “Man in the Iron Mask,” or the Tom Cruise-led samurai furiously meeting the muzzles of the Imperial army’s guns in the “Last Samurai.”

For old-fashioned folk like me who see small triumphs even in the most painful defeats, game one of Season 76 can be placed under the category of moral victories.

But perhaps for those weaned on victory being the barometer of virtue, those who follow winners simply because they won and not because they won the “right way” (and, yes, there IS a right way), this defeat might sting a little more.

Perhaps they might already be preparing placards – oh, wait, how passé – hashtags screaming, “#FireBo” or “#BringBackNorman.”

Perhaps some unsteadied hearts are already looking for takers to their season tickets, expecting a less-than-stellar run after being 5-peat spoiled.

To those like me who are optimistic enough (or naïve enough?) to believe that Season 76 still has at least 13 more unfinished games and that those games can still be won, I urge you to dust off your old A jackets and get ready for war. Our Eagles need us now more than ever.

To those who have already crumbled into despair and are looking for short-sighted solutions to problems that don’t yet exist (i.e. let’s find a new coach), this I say to you,

“How quick you forget.”

Remember, friends, the peaks and valleys of ’05 when our beloved Norman Black first took the helm of the Ateneo program. The bemedaled former PBA mentor was under the weight of expectations not dissimilar to what coach Bo is now experiencing.

Many might be quick to judge the merits of Mr. Perasol now that a limping Ateneo team lost to maybe the top seed by 10 points, but we would do well to recall how coach Norman himself fared even worse in his own debut.

Armed with a taller and more athletic roster, Ateneo was expected to do well against a shorter, but very talented, La Salle squad on July 10, 2005. Right off the bat, Ateneo was on the backfoot. DLSU’s offense hummed early on, while the Eagles missed open shot after open shot, trailing after one quarter, 20-13. The second period began even worse as the Archers went on a 16-0 run that all but obliterated any chances of a Hail Mary comeback. The result of coach Norman’s debut game? DLSU by 18, 78-60.

As is natural in this corner of Katipunan after stinging defeats, armchair analysts left and right dissected the game from all corners, coming up with a singular interpretation – that maybe coach Norman should have stayed in the PBA. Maybe the college game was just too different and that he just wasn’t built for it.

Ateneo went on to lose twice more against La Salle in that season, 72-55 on September 16, and 74-57 nine days later in the Final Four. Three games against our bitter rivals and three losses – by an average of more than 17 points at that!

Going by those numbers alone, it’s a wonder coach Norman kept his place at the helm. Oh but good thing the Loyola brain trust did retain him, because, as we know now, this guy steered us to an unprecedented 5-peat in the modern era of college basketball.

The lesson, really, is simple.

Patience pays off. Stick with coach Bo (of course!). Let Kiefer and the others heal. When they do, the team’s true game will come to fore and they will wow us again.

Let them lick their wounds. Let them learn. Let them grow.

They have to.

Because, if this first game is any indication, then in 2013, we are certainly in for one big fight of a season.

Kudos to the NU Bulldogs, who, despite what some might find difficult to admit, played a splendid game. They were +13 in rebounds and +5 in assists. They shot 92% from the line and limited the Eagles to under 28% from the floor. Oh, and their best big man, Alfred Aroga, didn’t even play. I am already looking forward to round two.

NU 64- Parks 22, Mbe 14, Villamor 13, Javillonar  5, Alolino 4, Rosario 2, Khobuntin 2, Alejandro 2, Rono 0, De Guzman 0

AdMU 54- Tiongson 13, Elorde 10, Buenafe 10, Newsome 9, Erram 4, Ravena 2, Pessumal 2, Golla 2, Capacio 2, Tolentino 0, Babilonia 0

QS: 15-10, 33-21, 48-32, 64-54

 

Key Performances:

Ray Parks – 22pts, 9rebs, 4asts, 1stl, 1blk, 3 treys

Emmanuel Mbe – 14pts, 15rebs, 1stl, 1blk

Chris Newsome – 9pts, 10rebs, 1blk

 


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Started playing basketball the same way many other Pinoys do -- on the street with his relatives, friends, and neighbors. After accepting the fact I will never be Philippine Basketball's savior against the might of China and Korea on the court, I turned to writing off the court. I'm not exactly the most objective armchair analyst on this side of the basketball universe, but it's not for want of trying. I write about other basketball leagues on HoopNut.blogspot.com. If you also have any queries about the English language, blame it on the day job. Follow me on Twitter: hoopnut

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