The Knockout Artists
Ateneo 79 vs. UP 58
by rick olivares
August 24, 2008
When asked by the sports media if UP’s physical game bothered Ateneo, Norman Black seemed puzzled. “Oh, I didn’t notice,” he said.
On whether the Maroons’ new black jerseys intimidated the Blue Eagles, the American mentor laughed and brushed it off, “I’m black. My name is Black. Heck, I wear black shirts all the time.”
The last time the UP wore a different jersey was in the 1990’s when alternated their traditional maroon with green – one of their school colors -- for one season. This year, the black variant was planned for a while now but it only arrived a few days ago. If was meant to intimidate their neighbors (after all, they are “the Fighting Maroons), then they were cruising for a bruising.
“I think we tried to deliver the knockout punch early,” sheepishly admitted Black. “But it didn’t fall.”
In the first quarter, the Ateneans touched the ball 21 times and misfired on 15 of them. What had gotten the team to its lofty position is its sleek passing game and spread the wealth offense. For the first time this season, they deviated and players looked for their own shots. “Settle down, fellas,” reeled in Black of his wards who were trying to move one step closer to the crucial twice-to-beat advantage and spare themselves of all complications. “Let’s remember what got us here in the first place.”
The venue for this year’s return bout in the Battle of Katipunan was the Araneta Coliseum. Heading into the match, Ateneo and UP had an identical 3-1 slate at the Big Dome. “We hope she (the Coliseum) can be good for us one more time,” prayed Maroons’ coach Aboy Castro who was also gunning for a wild card berth for the Collegiate Champions League.
A game can be distilled into two aspects: numbers and intangibles. It’s a 40-minute basketball game. In their second round match against their most ancient rival, the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles gained possession of the ball 82 times. That’s more than two offensive thrusts in a minute. When you consider that there’s a 24 second shot clock that leaves the UP Maroons with fewer than 12 seconds to put points on the board. And the game summary was the Blue Eagles scored 79 points and surrendered 58. So go figure.
But the final numbers don’t begin to even tell of the early struggle.
As it is with
But the game at first seemed to have all the makings of a pitched battle complete with flying elbows, hard picks, bodies all over the floor, and trash talking. After a double technical foul call on Arvin Braganza and Rabeh Al-Hussaini, the coaches pulled their troops together to let the earnest game of hoops begin.
Norman Black’s second unit is suspect and at times maligned for their inability to hold any lead or even mount any semblance of offense. Its saving grace is the team’s Man of Steal, Eric Salamat (4 steals but only 3 points on 1-10 shooting including two blown lay-ups) but who doesn’t need any plays called for him.
But this time, they put the clamps on UP and launched a 16-2 blitz at the start of the 4th Quarter for a 70-49 lead. A three-pointer by Chris Tiu (14 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists) and two traditional three-point plays by Al-Hussaini (24 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks) and Tonino Gonzaga offset a late burst by the Maroons and ended the game at 79-58. It was the Blue Eagles’ sixth straight victory and put them at a lofty 11-1 record.
“But we’re not out of the woods yet,” cautioned Black. “We have to win one more (against NU or
Ateneo 79 – Al-Hussaini 24, Tiu 14, Buenafe 8, Baclao 6, Reyes 6, Baldos 5, Long 4, Salva 3, Gonzaga 3, Escueta 3, Salamat 3, Nkemakolam 0, Chua 0, Burke 0, Sumalinog 0
UP 58 – Sison 10, Co 10, De Asis 7, Dela Victoria 6, Sorongon 6, Lopez 5, Astorga 4, Gamboa 3, Hiploito 3, Braganza 3, Reyes 1, Pajela 0, Marfori 0, Maniego 0
Roll call for the first time this year: Nono, Tony, Aly, me, Martin & Miggy. Go Ateneo!
Note: One Big Fight to whoever did that sign "gRabeh." That is one of the best I've seen since "Sus."