Sunday, 7 July 2013 11 Comments
In the face of an adversity found within — one fueled by disappointment and a depleted self-confidence — the real test comes with how one responds and rises up from the dismay.
That adversity was referred to by UE head coach Boyzie Samar as “excess baggage.”
“Ang hirap kasi nung after ng loss namin against FEU. We were humbled, devastated, humiliated because we brought excess baggage when we won in the FilOil (tournament). Syempre when you travel, you travel light. And the excess baggage was a big lesson for us,” expressed the determined mentor.
If there is anyone who has shown exactly how bouncing back should be done — particularly with excess baggage in the form of a gaping hole in their shoulders where a chip used to be — it’s definitely the UE Red Warriors.
The Warriors were able to avenge their miserable opening day loss to Far Eastern University by sliding through without a hitch in a squeaker against their preseason finals victims the National University Bulldogs, 71-67, on Saturday’s edition of the UAAP Season 76 at the Araneta Coliseum.
Redemption for UE began on the wrong foot. They were down 12-18 in the first period.
But as many would know, the desire to prove one’s self is a tremendous driving force, especially in the context of winning.
The Warriors turned the gear up a notch and continued to do so up until the payoff period.
“At least now we finished the game in 40 minutes. Last time 20 minutes lang eh. Eh pang 3-on-3 lang yun sabi ko sa kanila (players),” remarked Coach Boyzie in jest.
With a sudden burst of speed, UE snatched the lead from a struggling NU squad courtesy of a Charles Mammie putback followed by a Gino Jumao-as basket, to go into the break with a slim but morally uplifting 32-31 lead.
Mammie clocked in an astounding double-double performance comprised of 15 points and a whopping 20 rebounds. Jumao-as chipped in all-important 11 markers.
The payoff period saw both NU and UE literally attempting to outplay each other as they exchanged baskets for an entire stretch bridging the halfway mark of that final quarter.
With 10 lead changes and three deadlocks in this contest, there was no question that these teams knew each other all too well.
But the advantage went to the boys in red and white, owing to their preseason win that gave them the knowledge and experience on how to overcome the puzzle that is the Bulldogs.
Control the boards. Limit Ray-ray Parks.
Those two factors worked well for the Warriors in their prior storied meeting. And apparently, the same still worked for them in a match where it mattered most.
The Warriors were able to hustle their way to the leather, grabbing 49 rebounds against only 42 by the Bulldogs. The rebounding discrepancy is most visible on the offensive glass with a 27-15 advantage for UE.
And while NU capitalized on second chance points more, 16-13, it was the turnover points that did the damage. UE converted 25 turnover points as opposed to only 15 by the Bulldogs.
One key factor was how Parks was limited to only 11 points on a miserable 3 of 13 shooting from the field, to go with his seven boards and three dimes.
Much like their preseason Finals meeting, both squads dragged themselves into deep waters starting with an ice cold trey by UE’s go-to playmaker Roi Sumang, slightly creating space between them and the Bulldogs, 67-63, with 2:40 left.
But consecutive plays by NU tied the count at 67 with only 1:12 left on the game clock.
At that point, nobody in the coliseum knew that something great was about to happen — except perhaps for Sumang, who particularly asked for the final possession to be given to him.
After timeouts and possessions, the clock began winding down to the final seconds.
Sumang assessed the situation near the half-court line. He grabbed the ball and assessed some more, making his way closer to the arc, to one of his sweet spots.
He did not pass nor attempt to create anything. He milked the clock and patiently waited up until the moment he knew and felt that it was time to act.
Sumang heaved the ball from way beyond the arc, trusting.
A collective gasp was practically audible from the UE crowd. And when the orange rock swished in, the roar from the sea of red shook the coliseum, and the referee’s whistle signaling a four-point play opportunity was barely heard at all.
The third year star playmaker had just made the shot of his life; a shot that completely rid him and his team of the excess baggage they’ve been carrying around for a week. And Sumang knew it as he made his way to where former UE Red Warrior and now PBA star Paul Lee stood proud.
As they exchanged the highest of fives, it was as if the Warriors’ flaming torch had been handed over to Sumang, who proved that he was worthy of that honor.
Sumang then calmly sank his freebie to slam the door shut on the Bulldogs and to complete what could arguably be considered the biggest moment of his collegiate career so far.
“Di ko alam. Di ko alam kung ano nangyari. Basta hiningi ko kay coach yung last possession talaga kasi last time talagang nanggigigil kami sa panalo eh. Sinabi ko naman di ba, ayoko na talaga matalo. Sawang sawa na ako eh,” said Sumang during the post-game interview.
“Roi Sumang brought the right baggage, and that was his biggest heart,” added Coach Boyzie.
On the side of the Bulldogs, it was indeed a heartbreaking loss.
Despite the Bulldogs’ imposing slotman Emmanuel Mbe figuring in a monster double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds, that still wasn’t enough to carry the team.
The Bulldogs were ultimately outplayed by the Warriors, especially in their show of energy.
What UE lacked for on offense, they made up for in heaps with their energy and hustle plays.
But for Coach Boyzie, more than anything, it was his team’s heart that shone brightly on the court, and that signals the beginning for them.
“For me, yung tira ni Roi, it’s something like a redemption for us.”
UE (71): Sumang 19, Mammie 15, Jumao-as 11, Olivares 9, Santos 6, Javier 4, Noble 3, Sumido 2, Casajeros 2, Hernandez 0, Guion 0, Galanza 0, Flores 0
NU (67): Mba 18, Parks 11, Khobuntin 8, Javillonar 8, Alejandro 8, Alolino 7, Rosario 4, Villamor 3, Roño 0, Neypes 0, De Guzman 0
12-18, 32-31, 55-52, 71-67