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The Games That Play Us: Whattaweekend

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013 6 Comments

That was quite a weekend of UAAP basketball. Most of the games were pretty tight (yes, even the customary shellacking of UP had some “tight” moments), and there were several storylines that underscored the importance of each encounter. More than these, however, the consequent implications of the game results, as well as other… actions, are the ones really worth focusing on. Another UE suspension, anyone? How about a near tussle between a coach and a fan? Oh, man. Whattaweekend indeed.

It all started, of course, with Adamson trouncing the bejeezus out of the UP Fighting Maroons. Nothing really new there, of course, since this is the Diliman quintet’s tenth loss of the season. The more UP plays, the more I am convinced that no matter whom the coach is, this team is bound to fail. It’s not really because of the lack of talent (there is considerable depth here). It’s not because of the playing/coaching system. It’s not because the team doesn’t have a backer (because they DO have a backer already!). I daresay it’s just the way the university approaches the basketball team. I am not even really talking about the administration or the people behind the athletics program. I am sure they care. But how about the rest of the university? Do they really feel they have a stake in how well (or how miserable) this basketball team does? Do people care about this team?

Based on my own observations, the most popular UP team is not a traditional sports team like basketball, football, or volleyball. It’s the cheerleading/cheerdancing team. There’s nothing wrong with supporting such a great/winning team, of course, but why isn’t there an approximately similar level of support for the other teams? I think more than basketball itself, one critical factor affecting the Maroons’ performance (most notably, for the past few seasons) is the culture of, for the lack of a better term, non-support. If these Maroons had the same support from the ENTIRE school community in the same way the other schools have, then I hypothesize that the results would be commensurately better. I am probably wrong, but, hey, this is just the perspective of someone outside looking in.

Wow. I just rambled.

About the UP Fighting Maroons. Wow.

And now to ramble about the other teams who MIGHT actually make the Final Four.

Let’s start with the UE Red Warriors. At 5-5, the Recto cagers are about two losses away from outright elimination from Final Four contention. Their most recent loss to NU was significant, of course, since it put UE behind both UST and Ateneo. Their next four games will be against La Salle, Ateneo, Adamson, and UP. That’s not exactly the toughest sked to work with, considering both the Falcons and Maroons are there, BUT before the Reds even play those two teams, they might already be goners. Should coach Boysie Zamar’s crew lose to both DLSU and AdMU, then winning against Adamson and UP might not even really matter anymore.

And to compound things even more, ANOTHER Red Warrior was suspended this past weekend. Ralf Olivares committed a slew – a SLEW I tell you – of unsportsmanlike fouls against the Bulldogs last Saturday, resulting in a two-game suspension. Olivares, after getting tagged with a charging call, stepped on Nico Javelona in the first half, elbowed Robin Rono on the face in the third period for his fifth foul, AND bumped Jeoff Javillonar near the UE bench in the final frame. WOW. Just, wow. Because he was, technically, out of the game already when he bumped Javillonar, Olivares’s last action resulted in a technical foul for the UE bench.

Implications? Along with Charles Mammie, who will serve the second of his own two-game ban, Olivares will miss the DLSU game, and he, too, will miss the clash with Ateneo. Lord Casajeros, meanwhile, who was suspended last week as well, returns in the bout against La Salle. All these mean that UE will be playing with an incomplete roster against both the Archers and the Eagles. Way to help your team make the postseason, Mr. Olivares. Yikes.

As for the Bulldogs, that win against UE put them ahead of the FEU Tamaraws in the standings. NU is looking mighty strong right now, and it sure looks like they’re peaking at about the right time. Against the Warriors, NU shot 41% from beyond the arc and was +10 in assists. Gelo Alolino was an awesome quarterback in this game, handing out 8 dimes and getting 3 steals. His turnovers? How about ZERO. Definitely one of the most improved players this season. Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe also did really well, pairing up for 36 points and 21 rebounds. As long as coach Eric Altamirano can count on those three main guys to contribute consistently, then the Bulldogs might just make the UAAP Finals this year. Heck, the way they have been playing, they might even win it all.

Speaking of winning it all, two teams that still have legitimate chances are UST and FEU, both of whom collided in a marathon 50-minute match this past Sunday. By now, we all know that UST won thanks mainly to the heroics of Karim Abdul, but coach Pido Jarencio was surely happy with the contributions of his other reliables, like Aljon Mariano (man, that three-ball to force the first OT!), Kevin Ferrer (great double-double, but awful three-point shooting), Tata Bautista (BIG triple to force the second OT!), and even Kim Lo (stepped up in the fourth quarter). The Growling Tigers are currently lagging a little behind when it comes to the Final Four race, but at least coach Pido knows his cats still have a lot of fight left in them.

I can also say the same thing about coach Nash Racela’s Moraytans, despite the fact they already lost their fourth second round game. I know they ended up losing to UST, but I love the fact it wasn’t Terrence Romeo who kept the Tams for most of both extra sessions. That’s not a knock on Romeo, but more of a boon to coach Racela’s other, less heralded guys. Gryann Mendoza and Mac Belo, in particular, did exceptionally well in both OTs. They combined for 11 points in the final 10 minutes of that UST game, nearly giving FEU its ninth victory. A loss is always tough, but at least coach Racela knows he has more weapons that just those with Romeo, Garcia, and Tolomia written on their backs.

And now on to that ever-so-interesting Ateneo-La Salle rivalry. For the first time in a very long time, La Salle found a way to sweep its elims games against Ateneo. This win was a big lift for them, of course, since it meant they remained unbeaten in the second round, and that they have a great shot at challenging for a twice-to-beat edge going into the Final Four. If you’re a DLSU fan, you also probably loved the way the Archers responded in the second half. Just like the first round encounter between these teams, Ateneo had the stronger start and the Eagles led at the break, but, just like round one, La Salle came out a little tougher in the second half and made the shots that counted the most. The Greenies deserved this W. No doubt about that. Oh, and Jeron Teng making the final shot? Not really sure if coach Juno Sauler meant for Teng to take it (if I were him, maybe Almond Vosotros or Jason Perkins would have been the better choice), but, wow, props to the super soph. He made good on the game-winner.

As for the Eagles, well, they had their looks. They just couldn’t knock them down. A lot of Ateneo fans shook their heads at some seeming non-calls, but, at least from my POV, the Archers were a little more aggressive in attacking the basket. I mean, the Eagles attempted 25 treys compared to 18 for La Salle. Also, despite the fact the Katipunan quintet played great defense, forcing 18 DLSU turnovers to just 9 for Ateneo, they just weren’t able to capitalize. I felt that, maybe, Kiefer Ravena and Ryan Buenafe could have attacked the basket a little bit more. But, hey, who am I, right? These guys knew what they were doing. Again, they had their shots. They just couldn’t make them when they counted them most.

I think, though, that, moving forward, that will change. This loss will be a bitter reminder to the Eagles that they really have to gut it out every game down the road. It’ll be a perpetual battle of attrition till (IF) they get to #6. Oh, and I don’t think Kiefer Ravena will ever go 3/8 from the FT line ever again. The kid has a propensity to let these kinds of games etch in his psyche. He will use each and every one of those misses as motivation to get better. He’s got that Michael Jordan will, I tell you.

I want to single out Nico Elorde, however, for playing splendidly. The former Green Archer was a bipedaled blitz all throughout this game. He connected on three triples on his way to 13 markers, grabbed 4 boards, and dished out 3 dimes in just 20 minutes. He’s all heart, no doubt.

Both the Archers and Eagles have similar remaining skeds. Both teams take on NU, UST, and UE in varying sequences. Needless to say, those games will be the most pivotal in determining who gets the Final Four nods and who gets derailed. I am pegging the magic number at 9 wins, so that means DLSU needs to win just 2 more games for an outright Final Four berth, while the Ateneans need to win all three to avoid any playoff-for-the-fourth-seed-or-whatever complications. Of course, both La Sallians and Ateneans would also welcome losses by the Tamaraws here and there.

Perhaps the most interesting development, or, rather, remnant of that Ateneo-La Salle match, however, was the near-tussle between coach Bo Perasol and DLSU superfan JJ Atayde. It has no concrete league implications (I don’t think coach Bo should be sanctioned for his emotional outburst) as of now, but it definitely captures the passion that permeates through the UAAP.

Before the Ateneo-La Salle game, I saw a tweet insinuating that the rivalry has become a little boring because the current players don’t exactly hate each other, unlike in the 80s or 70s. I am guessing all the “heat” of the rivalry is now back on the table after the Perasol-Atayde incident (and some other minor incidents in the upper box area).

So there you go. Big games. HUGE implications. And grown men (players, coaches, and fans alike) letting their passions overwhelm them a little too much. Whattaweekend.

 

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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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