Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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
In the first NBA Asia Challenge, Sly the Silver Fox of the New Jersey Nets showed what an athlete and an entertainer he was. This year, the Miami Heat's Burnie took it a notch higher with his showmanship and moves. He sure knew how to work up a crowd. The KFC mascot sucks!!! Grill the damn chicken!
In the picture below, this one is from the press conference at the Fiesta San Miguel bar of the Dusit Thani Manila. Ronnie Magsanoc was supposed to be joined by other PBA players but for some reason they didn't show up. It worked out better for Magsanoc!
When I see how Swedish football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic's one-year stint with FC Barcelona went, I am reminded of Michael Owen's similar cameo appearance with Real Madrid at the height of the Galactico I project.
The time when a player stayed with the club that brought him in is done. How many do so? Giggsy and Scholes for ManU. Gerrard and Carra for LFC. I wish I could say Alessandro del Piero (who is the reason why I am a Juventus fan) but I think he broke in Padova in the Serie B. A funny note about Del Piero and Padova. A year after the Italian striker switched clubs to sign with La Vecchia Signora, Padova got promoted from Serie B to Serie A.
Back to Ibra -- he's been with Ajax Amsterdam (another club I like), Juventus (where he left after the calciopoli of 2006), Intermilan, Barcelona, and now to nerazzurri's rival the Rossoneri AC Milan. Intermilan's Argentine team captain Javier Zanetti took shots at Ibra for moving to their city and stadium rival AC Milan. Zanetti described Ibra as "selfish."
In response, Ibra said that Zanetti should shut up and give him credit because Inter was nothing before he joined them (well it is kind of true since they benefitted from the calciopoli that saw Juventus relegated to Serie B and stipped of its players and titles).
And the move to AC Milan has become tabloid fodder for Ibra has taken parting shots to Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. Cracks in the wall of the two-time Spanish League champs? Maybe not since they got David Villa. But was getting Ibra a ploy just to get rid of Sam Eto'o?
All I know here is that the derbies between Intermilan and AC Milan will get a lot more heated.
Monday, August 30, 2010
CSB snaps losing streak to EAC; Letran gets revenge on AU
by rick olivares
For the better part of the second round match between the College of Saint Benilde and Emilio Aguinaldo College in Season 86 of the NCAA at the San Juan Arena, it was a game of can-you-top-this between the Blazers’ Luis Sinco and the Generals’ Argel Mendoza.
Sinco scored 21 points (on 8-10 shooting) and added 5 rebounds while Mendoza continued his one-man show for the disappointing Generals with a 22-point effort. At a crucial juncture in the third quarter the two players traded shots with Sinco scoring eight points including two trifectas while Mendoza scored nine all from three-point range. But when the dust settled at the end of the period, CSB had a 52-48 lead while Mendoza was on the bench with three fouls (he also had two shots rejected).
However, it was Sinco, the rookie from Ateneo de Manila High School who had more help from his teammates while Mendoza had none. Benilde’s Carlo Lastimosa, the NCAA’s leading scorer with 17.8 per game, added 19 big points including a nasty crossover on Milan Vargas for a layup as CSB romped to a 83-64 win and their first in four meetings with the Generals dating back to last season when EAC joined the league.
In the third quarter, normally the waterloo for both teams that have a tendency to collapse at the worst possible time, both teams held serve with EAC staying within striking distance of CSB. But the Blazers’ went on a 15-3 explosion that was capped by Lastimosa’s move to kick off the final canto that gave them a 66-51 lead with 6:11 left in the game.
The Generals had one more rally in them as they brought down the lead to 69-60 following a bucket by Vargas off a great feed by Neil Tuazon in the lane but a conventional three-point play by Ralph Nayve for CSB gave his side a 74-60 lead with 1:48 left in the game.
Mendoza topscored for the Generals with 22 points.
The Blazers’ win also broke a tie between the two squads who entered the match both at 2-8. CSB is now at 3-8 while EAC tumbled to 2-9 good for seventh and eighth respectively in the standings.
With 2:31 left in the main game between Colegio de San Juan de Letran and Arellano University, the Knights were up by 13 after a Frank Dysam triple 69-56. Letran head coach Louie Alas instructed his players to take care of the ball and make good shots. Only a week ago, with 3:36 left to play, Intramuros neighbor Mapua pulled one incredible comeback for a rabbit out of the hat as they bucked a 14-point deficit to win 63-60.
This time against the Arellano Chiefs who were riding on a two-game winning streak, the Knights stopped their foes with a 72-58 win to go up to 4-7 in the standings. Letran is half a game behind Arellano which is at 4-6 while Mapua is at 6-4. The Cardinals will find some rough sailing ahead as they have yet to play the upper tier teams in San Beda, San Sebastian and JRU.
Jam Cortes stopped the bleeding for Letran which has found itself beset with all sorts of scoring issues. Cortes scored 19 points and pulled down 21 huge rebounds including 11 off the offensive glass to reset the NCAA record. The previous high was nine offensive rebounds as set by San Sebastian’s Calvin Abueva.
Helping out in Letran’s cause was Dysam and gunner Jaypee Belencion who scored 17 and 14 points respectively.
With Arellano threatening, Belencion hit a pair of trifectas from beyond regulation range while Dysam dropped one right through the cords to exact revenge on the Chiefs who scapled them in the first round with a 78-76 win.
Arellano’s Isiah Ciriacruz led his side with 19 markers.
Title-less in October. A dejected Paul Lee walk away following the University of the East Red Warriors' 69-68 loss to National University. It was the first time NU swept the season series in what? Decades? Maybe even the first time ever.
The Red Warriors are every bit better than their 4-8 record. Had they gotten their act together early on (read: solved their internal troubles), they could very well be in the upper half of the standings. Their cheer of "Bomba, UE" is apt because if there is one team that could earn the nickname of "The Bomb Squad" then it's UE over UST. They've got Lee, James Martinez, Paul Zamar, and Raphy Reyes to fire away from the outside. And Ken Acibar and Lord Casajeros can even hit the shot from time to time.
The Recto-based team is now at a crossroads. With two matches left to play in their lost season, they'll try to go out with a bang. Head coach Lawrence Chongson is unsure whether to come back or not for next year. That isn't entirely his decision as it has to come from school and team management.
So where does that leave Paul Lee? The Red Warriors are losing many of their mainstays and if the team is unable to put up a competitive roster, then Lee could spend time prepping for the pros. Then the Warriors will become rapidly improving forward Acibar's team. Plus Sam Razon and Casajeros will be back.
But since the PBA Draft for next season won't be until the end of August, then it's entirely possible that Lee could play out his final year of eligibility for UE.
The Blue Albatross
Ateneo 55 vs. Adamson 52
by rick olivares and brosi gonzales
The Adamson Falcons are a top contender for this year’s men’s basketball crown. They could very well make it to the finals and win it all with their talented crew and their miracle worker for a coach. They’ve beaten FEU and La Salle en route to where they are now. But as great as a championship may be, it will definitely be sweeter if they beat the Ateneo Blue Eagles along the way.
The record of futility. The curse. You can call it by any name but it all boils down to one thing – they’re on a losing streak and they know of it. They don’t speak loudly of it. But they are well aware of it.
After the two teams met in the first round, an Ateneo victory 69-66, the Falcons rebounded with a 66-59 win over UP. Second year forward Eric Camson was the best player for Adamson that day as his team went 2-1. Rather than talk about the win over the Maroons, he spoke about the loss to Ateneo which still rankled him and his teammates. They felt that they had gotten the raw end of the officiating and they owed the Blue Eagles one.
Heading into the second round match-up with their forever tormentor, Camson made sure to remind his teammates of what awaited them should they get the albatross, actually the Blue Eagles off their back.
A day earlier, La Salle dealt FEU a second loss and all of a sudden the ramifications of the unexpected loss to UE a few days earlier became painfully clear. Had they beaten the Red Warriors they would have been tied with the Tamaraws for first.
However there was no the time for recriminations. The task at hand was to regain focus for the Sunday main event with the dangerous Falcons in what was going to be an all out war for sole possession of second place in the standings.
“Sila na lang yung hadlang namin,” noted Camson.
But for the Adamson Falcon most eager to take the floor, Camson mostly sat this one out as he was in foul trouble from the start. His teammates Janus Lozada and Lester Alvarez were more than capable of carrying the scoring cudgels as they nipped right on Ateneo’s heels.
Ateneo’s Eric Salamat, Ryan Buenafe, and Nico Salva kept the Falcons at bay with timely hits to take the first quarter 16-10.
Adamson’s revival since the return of Leo Austria has mostly been on the defensive end. “Defense wins games,” Austria would say like just about every other coach in the league. But he’s got the San Marcelino-based squad believing and with stoppers like Camson, Manyara, and Will Stinnett, their stock has gone higher. And the team’s supporters know it as they hung a banner that read: “We need no heroes. We need a team.”
And their team quickly got back in the game as they scored 11 points in the second quarter while holding Ateneo to six for a 22-21 deficit at the half.
Prior to the end of the first half, an Adamson manager noticed that Blue Eagle Jason Escueta was missing the Philippine flag from his trunks. League Commissioner Ato Badolato verified the claim and upon discussion with the two coaches, Escueta was disallowed from further playing in the particular game, two free throws plus ball possession were to be awarded to Adamson, and the game – owing to the new rules where uniform infractions -- will no longer merit a protest and subsequent overturning.
But it was a nervous Ateneo coaching staff that took the floor at the start of the second half that Black had to sit down for a few minutes to steady himself. They had dodged a bullet. In fact, that was twice they were singled out for uniform infractions in consecutive years with the previous one coming from the last season when former center Vince Burke wore the summer jersey that was almost identical to the ones they wore for the UAAP tournament except that it was missing one logo of a sponsor.
Escueta’s ejection saw the Eagles lose focus at the start of the third quarter as the Falcons scored seven straight points to take the lead at 28-22.
Before things could get out of hand, Buenafe and Salva presided over as return salvo that helped Ateneo regain their senses. Buenafe deep deep undergoal stab over the outstretched arms of Nuyles and Lozada got the blue and white gallery jumping out of their seats at the 3:55 mark for a 33-31 lead.
The talented forward also scored on another dizzying up and under move on Lozada a minute later before Emman Monfort closed out the third with a pair of free throws for a 41-34 lead.
The seven-point margin was the largest by either side for the game but by no means were the Falcons finished.
Nuyles’ strapped the Falcons on his back as he scored seven points to level the count at 42-all at the six minute mark.
When Leo Austria is complemented for having the luxury of a talented pair of point guards in Alvarez and Jerick Cañada who both play similar games with an equal impact on Adamson’s fortunes, the coach can only smile. “They will give (FEU’s) RR Garcia and Terence Romeo a run for their money any day of the week.” he said in Filipino.
After Cañada went out after a spill on the baseline, Alvarez came in and lobbed the ball to Lozada for an alley-oop lay-up before embarking on an incredible shooting display to almost single-handedly beat Ateneo.
Like Adamson, Ateneo needs no heroes but a team as well. No other squad in the UAAP shares the ball better than the Blue Eagles.
Prior to the start of the season, as much as Eric Salamat was team captain, the road to a third straight tile largely will be determined by Ateneo’s rookie class of Season 71 in Buenafe, Salva, and rapidly improving center Justin Chua. And in one of the biggest games of the season, Buenafe bucked fouls while Salva played in spite of a dislocated finger to make one huge shot after another in the final four minutes to keep pace with Adamson.
Sparkplug Emman Monfort who missed a free throw down the stretch for Ateneo in the loss to UE, came through this time with a clutch triple and three free throws. Across the floor, Adamson self-destructed when Mike Galinato who was whistled for a moving pick that nullified an Alvarez triple, and a charge by Nuyles on Kirk Long.
The Blue Eagles earned a gritty 55-52 win. It was their ninth win in 12 games for sole possession of second place. Perhaps more importantly, it booked them into the Final Four for a record 12th consecutive time.
And a cursory look at the final statistics will show that Ateneo led at the end of every quarter. But that hardly begins to tell the struggle that at the end of it all, Ateneo head coach Norman Black could only grope for Filipino to express himself. “Talagang ang hirap ng larong ito,” he muttered at the end.
The awesome duo of Buenafe and Salva respectively tallied 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 1 steal and 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 1 assist.
The team effort saw Ateneo outrebound Adamson 51-37. Monfort’s huge triple at the 2:50 mark belied the awful 2 for 12 percentage from three-point country for 16.7% (as opposed to Adamson shooting 7-26 for 26.9%).
Said a relieved Norman Black, “They seemed to know everything that we wanted to do. Buti na lang we also knew what they wanted to do.”
Over at the Adamson locker room, a disconsolate Camson fumed. He was inconsequential when his team needed him. “Bad trip,” he said as a heavy cloud hung over his team’s dugout. “May chance pa naman na magkikita kami sa Final Four or sana sa Finals. Babawi kami.”
Ateneo 55 – Buenafe 14, Salva 13, Long 10, Salamat 7, Monfort 7, Chua 4, Escueta 0, dela Cruz 0, Tiongson 0, Golla 0, Austria 0
Sunday, August 29, 2010
by rick olivares
The Americans are still the best in the world in the game of basketball but whereas before, that was a cast-iron guarantee, today, they have to go get it.
When the Americans came to town over a week ago to kick-off the week-long activities that came as a part of the 2010 NBA Asia Challenge, NBA legends Gary Payton, Mitch Richmond, Glen Rice, and Chris Webber displayed wonder, curiosity, and refreshing candidness and graciousness when meeting their Filipino hosts.
At the press conference at the Dusit Thani Manila, the four set the tone with their contagious enthusiasm and quotable quotes.
“We heard about the man they call ‘Trigger(man),’” said Rice about Allan Caidic. Caidic provided a memorable shooting display in last year’s inaugural NBA Asia Challenge when he nailed five triples in succession in the first quarter.
Rice admitted to knowing little about Filipino hoops but he did confess to playing the Smart Gilas Pilipinas National Team in a scrimmage in Los Angeles and where he and his teammates needed like six halftimes to beat their foes.
After the exhibition game that was a delight to watch, Payton, who was seated next to Caidic hung the ultimate compliment: “He is the Truth!”
Alaska Aces head coach Tim Cone has won 13 PBA titles. If you ever kick back your shoes and catch him off-season, you’d be pleasantly surprised to know that he remains a fan first and foremost and he can talk about the game all day long. The only thing that would make the day complete is to bring out those old Skybox and Fleer basketball cards.
Cone’s been walking on Cloud 9 in the last two weeks – a PBA title to cap the season and now this, a opportunity to coach NBA and PBA legends for one game. “I have a very simple play, “ he said over a quick lunch at Taco Bell with longtime assistant Joel Banal. “Plant Gary (Payton) at the top of the arc and let him do his thing. Then put Glen Rice and Allan Caidic on either side of the court and let them shoot the daylights out of the Araneta Coliseum. I’ll be a genius for that,” he laughed.
Three and a half hours later, Cone can add “clairvoyance” to his resume as his Red Team won the game 177-167. Caidic provided another chapter to his legend by scoring 54 points including 14 triples. Rice, was an amused spectator to Caidic’s prowess as he repeatedly passed the ball and set up screens for the Triggerman including quite a few illegal picks that the referees were all to willing to overlook in the spirit of fun.
Rice, one of the great gunners in roundball in any time and anyplace, scored a measly 19 including five trifectas. “We’ve got this saying – you go with the hot hand and he was H-O-T!”
Caidic’s predecessor, Atoy Co, was far from his deadly form during his heyday, but at 59, he showed that he could still be a crowd pleaser and a ham as he played along to his missed and made shots. Look out, Benjie Paras. You’re might have some competition in showbiz!
Co missed his first seven attempts before finding the bottom of the net. His futility forced one long time fan to get off his seat and yell, “Kaya hirap na hirap tayo sa Toyota, eh!”
Webber was more profuse in his report card: “When we’re 59, I don’t know if we could still do it like him.”
The “Fortune Cookie,” as Co was known by during his playing career, wasn’t the only one making a comeback. Webber, hasn’t worn his size 15 kicks in a game in two years and though an exhibition game only, he was happy to know that he could still play some ball. Webber scored 24 points to co-lead his White Team alongside former PBA import Richie Frahm. C-Webb also added 11 boards and 6 assists.
For Frahm, making the trip to Manila was coming full circle. After a stellar career with the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference in the US NCAA, he played his first professional game with the Mobiline Cellulars in the PBA under coach Bill Bayno. And now after several stint with NBA and European teams, he’s comeback right where it all started for him to play one last game. “It won’t hit me (that the exhibition game was his final game before hanging up his sneakers) until I’m on my way home. But it’s been a good run.” said Frahm who will soon be taking up coaching.
In spite of the relative strictness with NBA guidelines on fan interaction (read: photo ops and signing autographs), Payton, from Day One, let his and his teammates’ intention be known: “I’m here to meet the fans. To go to crowds and high five them. Talk to them. Pose for them. Even if the Filipino fans were thousands of miles away they helped make us who we are.”
During the game, Payton temporarily relieved a courtside cameraman of his duties by filming the action. During an intermission number where Miami Heat mascot Burnie engaged some children in a contest where they had to put on their shoes that were scattered on one side of the court then race to the other end and try to score a basket, Payton tossed his size 12 Nikes into the heap. And when someone raced away with the shoe, Payton went to the middle of the court and with an exaggerated motion, said, “Dude, my shoe?”
It took a while for the crowd to get going as they were perhaps aghast at the lack of defense. But as the first half wound up, D-Leaguer Mark Tyndale, Arwind Santos and Ronald Tubid took the game to the stratosphere, Caidic was in a zone, Payton was talking, and Co was laying bricks, the crowd came to life. The game was evolving into something special.
Although the scoring somewhat tapered off in the second half, the players on either squad made sure to leave the crowd and themselves with plenty of highlights.
“We have the two oldest leagues (the NBA and the PBA) in the world and that says something about the Filipino’s talent for the game,” noted Webber who serves as an analyst for NBA-TV.
When asked given what they know and what they’ve seen of Filipino’s after the exhibition game, Payton believed that it is only a matter of time when a homegrown player suits up in the NBA. “The NBA does a good job of scouting so believe me that they know. It’s going to happen soon.”
“Better keep that number on hold,” said Rice to Caidic who was massaging his aching legs but was nonetheless grateful for the American’s praise. “Some team is gonna dial you up come playoff time.”
Other local players who were mentioned by the NBA greats were “Spider-Man” Ronald Tubid, LA Tenorio, Santos, and Magsanoc.
Carlo Singson, Senior Manager for Business Development for NBA Asia said post-game, “We are lucky that we got four NBA players who had the right personalities to make this work. Their personalities made the whole week even more special.”
As the NBA contingent boarded their shuttle back to their hotel, Webber, the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year, had one last thing to say, “This is more than I bargained for. I’ll tell you, this has been a wonderful experience.”
You can say, it wasn’t only Webber who felt that way.