Murder by numbers
Ateneo 87 vs. NU 61
by rick olivares
The statistics can lie. Yes, the numbers are cold hard facts but they hardly begin to tell the story.
Take for example Mio Puno son of former Blue Eaglet captain Nolet who also led the jayvees to the title in 1984. At the half of the Eaglets’ 14th game of the UAAP season, Puno logged only six minutes. Across his name on the ledger there were zero points, zero rebounds, zero everything.
But in his six minutes on the floor he held his National University Bullpup counterpart Kevin Lara to zero points and zero attempts at the basket.
Then there’s Von Pessumal. There’s a reason why head coach Jamike Jarin rides him hard. He’s got great potential. Alongside wunderkind Kiefer Ravena, the two conjure images of a high school version of a couple of guys who once suited up for the Chicago Bulls and led them to a bunch of titles. And the Ateneo version are once more playing for another title – their third in four seasons.
Three years ago, Jarin told the lanky 6’1” forward that he would be playing all five positions in the floor because of his multiple talents. Pessumal accepted the challenge and since then he’s become every bit as crucial to Ateneo’s game plan for he can drive, post-up, stick the three-pointer, pull up shot, or a swish the fade. He can bring that ball down and thread a pass through traffic such as when he found forward Jay Sacluti who was lurking ahead of the pack for an easy lay in. And that’s just on the offensive end. He’s got great instincts on defense where he plays the passing lanes well and block shots with the best of them. He’s also quick enough to double on defense and recover back to his man.
Against NU, he only scored 6 points and collected four assists. It might not be much but consider this – after the Bullpups reeled off seven straight points to start the fourth quarter, Pessumal reentered the fray with Kiefer Lim, Janus Suarez, Mio Puno, and Bolek Vitangcol. Picking up the ball just above the apex of the three-point arc, Pessumal instructed Suarez to shift from the left side of the court to the right. Thinking that he wanted a clear out, NU sent a man to double but Pessumal sent a pass to Suarez who cut back inside the lane for a lay-up.
Order was restored. Pessumal then checked out of the game. His job done as the Eaglets finished off the Bullpups 87-61. There was no assist credited as Suarez dribbled some, but it was Pessumal’s ability direct the offense that restored order to Ateneo’s offense.
They had done it; swept the eliminations for the fourth time in Ateneo UAAP Juniors history.
“Fourteen and oh,” said Jarin inside the victorious locker room. “But that doesn’t mean anything yet. We have two games to win before that means something.”
With uncanny focus and playing one of their best games from start to finish, the Blue Eaglets dropped a mighty 21-4 bomb in the first eight minutes and forty-five seconds to seize control of the game.
But NU, no longer the doormat in both divisions this season, scored five points to bridge the first and second quarters to pump some life into their game behind the athletic Roque Estoce.
While Bullpups head coach Jeff Napa designed their defense to stop Ravena and Pessumal, they didn’t count on a supersub to step in mightily.
Josh Gadia bucked an early season injury to return and provide quality minutes. Not one to lack confidence to take the big shot, Gadia rattled off four triples in a four-minute span that broke the game wide open 40-24. The cherry on the icing before halftime was when Ravena stole a page from Michael Jordan who once drove right through five New Jersey Nets for a bucket. With eight seconds left, he beat Estoce with a quick first step outside the arc then drove right through Nico Meneses and Jonel Parungao before spinning past Raf Atangan for a reverse lay-up and a 42-26 lead.
After a Sacluti basket with 2:30 left in the third, the score was 68-35. The game had long been over. The only thing left to be decided was the grisly toll.
Fifteen of the 16 Blue Eaglets played (minus Jan Ressureccion who was out with a hyper-extended knee) and 13 of them scored. But all of them added contributed with some rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. They ruled the boards 52-33, assists 22-18, steals 7-1, and had more fastbreak points (16-11) and turnover points (29-16).
Their destruction of second place NU was systematic and cold blooded.
With their 14th straight win, the Blue Eaglets booked their fifth straight finals appearance and will wait for their foe that will either be NU, FEU, UST, or DLSZ depending on who knocks out whom in a stepladder format.
It was the fourth eliminations sweep. Ateneo turned the trick in 1986, 1999, and 2006.
But the statistics lie.
Each time they went on to win the title (but in ’99 and ’06 they lost Game 1 of the finals before bouncing back to wrap it up). For them to wrap up a rare three-peat, they will have to win twice in the best-of-three series that begins two weeks from now.
Cautioned assistant coach Joe Silva, himself a former Blue Eaglet, “Fourteen-zero.. good job! Pero wala pa tayo napaptunayan. Two more wins that’s the better job. Let’s win two more games.”
The team nodded in agreement. Now the real work begins.
Ateneo 87 – Ravena 24, Romero 14, Gadia 12, Javelosa 8, Suarez 7, Pessumal 6, Tenorio 5, Lim 3, Sacluti 2, Puno 2, Gamboa 2, Vitangcol 1, Dumrique 1, Mercado 0, Austria 0
NU 61 – Tansingco 14, Atangan 12, Estoce 11, Napa 8, Parungao 6, Meneses 5, Rivero 2, Busa 2, Lara 1, Caparas 0, Banquiao 0