This appears in ateneo.edu
by rick olivares
Some day, some how, the streak is going to end.
And streaks do end. Roger Federer eventually snapped Rafael Nadal’s clay surface win streak in Hamburg. The Boston Red Sox eventually reversed their 86-year curse to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS en route to a World Series championship.
However, there’s this string of titles won by the Ateneo Blue Eagles in collegiate hoops (including the pre and post-UAAP leagues) and that 14-year win streak of 28 games they have against the Adamson Falcons.
Through the years, sportswriters have tried their best to quantify those loses in presidential terms, hit songs of the day, and fads and fashions. The players try not to think about such as their coaches and management staff try to shield them from that lest it prove to be a distraction.
One side of the Araneta Coliseum was hoping that the law of averages or Murphy’s Law would catch up with the team from the other side. But you know how the blue and white side thinks?
It’s like this -- remember after Larry Bird won his third NBA title with the Boston Celtics, a reporter asked him if winning ever got old? The Birdman answered, “Shoot. I’m greedy when it comes to championship rings.”
Exactly. You’ll have to pardon us if we’d like for the current streak to continue. Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. In the face of a protest by UAAP board members whose arguments are weaker than Andal Ampatuan’s alibis. In the face of a tough Adamson team. In the face of a late deficit. In the face of an ugly game that is so typical of Ateneo-Adamson match-ups. The Blue Eagles showed their championship mettle in carving out a heart-stopping 55-51 opening day win.
If you were looking for the sleek running and passing playoff discombobulation of Adamson and FEU by the Blue Eagles, you’ll have to go back to your collection of burned DVDs of those matches for evidence of that.
The Blue Eagles have switched to the familiar post-up offense not seen since Rabeh Al-Hussaini was the sheriff in these parts. Furthermore, three-fifths of the starting unit is new.
And surely you know by now that the Falcons are one of the best-coached squads who easily go 10-deep. They’ve got the height and the talent to play Ateneo. Quite frankly, they are tired of losing to Ateneo. Half the Blue Eagles squad is new but the new faces aside, the result was still the same.
Somewhere the Cleveland Cavaliers can empathize.
After years of taking it on the chin from Michael Jordan, in the year His Airness was flailing away against curve balls, they were still swept by the Scottie Pippen-led Bulls 3-0 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
If the Falcons want to fulfill their championship aspirations, they know that the road has to go through Katipunan Avenue… and their new big and I mean big man in the middle.
Not only did Greg Slaughter win the opening tip, but he also scored the first four points off Adamson counterpart Austin Manyara. And his massive dunk in the fourth quarter off a feed by Captain Kirk (Long) roused the lazy Ateneo gallery from its stupor.
Maybe the years of dominance has spoiled the Ateneo faithful but in case they have not been paying attention, teams this season have specifically built their squads to dethrone the three-time champs.
The Blue Babble Battalion couldn’t even finish a cheer of “One Big Fight!” The crowd apathy towards cheering matched the ugly game played by the Blue Eagles until Slaughter’s flush.
Only then did they discover that they had a voice and oh-crap-we’re-under-siege-from-this-hungry-Adamson-team. It was so ugly that Kiefer Ravena was scoreless for the first time in his life.
On several occasions, the Blue Eagles got lost in their defensive rotations leaving Falcons Roider Cabrera and Lester Alvarez momentarily free to bombard from the outside. The Ateneans were biting into pump fakes like newbies and had a tough time making the entry pass even if their life depended on it.* And it certainly didn’t help that there seemed to be an invisible lid on top of the cylinder as point blank shots by Frank Golla, Justin Chua, and Long rimmed out.
In one incredible sequence, the Falcons retrieved the loose balls and offensive rebounds on four consecutive possessions yet were unable to put points on the board. Following Austin Manyara’s tip to make it 51-44 for the Falcons at the 6:58 mark of the fourth quarter, Adamson would not score again as Ateneo held fast on the defensive end.
The Blue Eagles scored 11 points in the final six minutes while Adamson laid a big fat egg.
And Slaughter, guarded by five different Falcons, kept Ateneo in the game with his post ups and drives. He topscored with 23 points on 64% shooting while pulling down 9 boards. He chipped in 2 assists and 2 blocks including a huge one on Lester Alvarez’ layup that preserved the Blue Eagles’ slim 53-51 lead.
Emman Monfort (6 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) finished off the Falcons with two free throws for a 55-51 win and Ateneo’s 29th straight over its San Marcelino foe.
Thirty-three years ago, Ateneo’s first ever UAAP match was against the Falcons at the Blue Eagle Gym. The Falcons beat a Blue Eagles team that was without many of its top players who skipped the year in silent protest against the move to college basketball’s junior circuit from the more glamorous NCAA. The Falcons that season went on to win their only UAAP title while the Blue Eagles finished near the cellar.
Today, it’s a vastly different league. Not only has the UAAP overtaken the NCAA as the country’s premier varsity league but Ateneo has cast its blue shadow on the league as it attempts a fourth straight crown and 21st overall.
Said Slaughter who himself is trying to keep two personal streaks going (he won three straight with the University of Visayas Green Lancers and Ateneo’s three consecutive UAAP crowns): “I don’t really think of the Adamson’s losing streak or our win streak over them. But I sure don’t want to be on the team that finally loses to them.”
* We had such one guy who used to wear #13 but he is not in the team’s current UAAP lineup.