This appears in the Monday, August 1, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.
by rick olivares with photos by brosi gonzales
The 24-second shot clock is unique in sports. It is the only one in sports where a team has to try and convert within the time allotted to them lest they be called for a turnover or the opponent takes possession of the ball. The time adds an element of drama that is heightened all the more with the game on the line. And that’s the territory where players develop their reputations and their legends begin -- in the clutch.
When you hear about Ryan Roose Garcia what comes to mind are those golden hands of his that seem to make scoring baskets ridiculously simple. He’s clutch and a big time player. No surprise there that he was named Most Valuable Player in last year’s UAAP tournament.
But you also know that he’s had tough days at the office. There were times when he couldn’t hit the side of a building even if his life depended on it and he’s been shut down by Ateneo’s Emman Monfort and a few others. So why is it that even when he is shooting 2-11 that he’s double-teamed with the game on the line?
Matched up against the University of Santo Tomas’s Jeric Teng (last Saturday July 30), another dynamo in the same mold, Garcia fared miserably. Teng, slightly taller, just as athletic, certainly just as quick but stronger, took him to school for the better part of the game.
The Growling Tigers took Teng’s cue as they played perfect pressure defense on FEU that at times it seemed like each Tamaraw was a quarterback facing a pass rush. Teng was especially spectacular scoring on Garcia on a variety of drives, post-ups, and pull-ups.
Tamaraws head coach Bert Flores knows that Garcia is a marked man that is why when he goes through games like this, he tells the combo guard to play the role of facilitator. A decoy if you will.
But the problem was, FEU couldn’t get their collective game going. They were held to five points in the second quarter in a low scoring affair while UST seemed on its way to another win.
Only the Tamaraws slowly whittled at the lead as the Tigers began to miss their shots and falter under pressure.
When Garcia laid the ball in off the window to notch the score at 57-all, there were 46.2 seconds left in the game clock.
But in a cruel twist of fate, Teng committed a most grievous inbound error that Tamaraws defensive guard Ping Exciminiano picked off for a quick layup that gave FEU a 59-57 lead.
Tigers head coach Pido Jarencio’s eyes bulged in horror. How had things turned so quickly? They were well on their way to a huge win. Gathering his wits, he called a time out but instead of executing, the Tamaraws forced a jump ball. Only they won the tip and Jeric Fortuna rattled in a line drive of a jumper that tied the match for the final time a 59-all with exactly 24 seconds left.
24 seconds: Cris Tolomia inbounds the ball on their side of the court with UST’s Kevin Ferrer surprisingly giving token pressure by the sidelines. Garcia curls around a pick to take inbound from Tolomia as Teng gives chase.
23 seconds: Garcia goes above the three-point arc to give him room to operate against Teng.
20 seconds: Garcia tries to crossover only Teng doesn’t fall for it.
12 seconds: Garcia makes his move so there is time for an offensive rebound should there be a miss.
9 seconds: Fortuna leaves Tolomia to play help defense on Garcia.
4 seconds: Tolomia fields a pass from Garcia and he finds himself with plenty of daylight to shoot. He rifles in a three – FEU’s 22nd attempt from beyond the arc.
2.9 seconds: The shot drops. It is only FEUs’ third trey of the match but it is the most important. The Tamaraws are up 62-59. With no timeouts left, Fortuna takes the inbound. Surprisingly no Tamaraw challenges him. The UST guard miscalculates for a second a launches a Hail Mary from beyond half court. Even as he lets go, the prayer has no hope of being answered.
Buzzer: The Tamaraws celebrate on UST’s side of the court as they circle Tolomia who finished with 10 points. Christian Sentcheu, FEU’s African player embraces the game’s hero. Tolomia is almost half his size but who cares?
Teng (a match high 23 points) puts his hands on his head and mutters the F-word twice. He bends over and holds his shorts as the sweat drips down from his face and onto the Maplewood floor of the Araneta Coliseum.
Jarencio shakes his head and wanders off to his team’s basket. In his six years as head coach of UST, he’s been Kramered and nailed by a (Kirk) Long shot. And now, he can add Tolomia to UST’s list of buzzer-beating infamy. “Bakit nag-double team,” he meekly asks to no one in particular.
He bent over in disbelief as a UST supporter came over and draped an arm over him. So spent was the Fireman, as Jarencio was called during his pro ball days, that he couldn’t join the assembly in singing the school hymn.
This was FEU’s second win of the season where they came back to win after being down for the first three quarters (they accomplished that feat was against National University just a few matches ago). In fact, they are the only team to have done so this season. And that has given them a 4-1 record while the Tigers fell to an even 2-2.
Last year, they also had two come-from-behind victories: an 84-80 double overtime win against La Salle and an 83-77 overtime triumph once more against the Bulldogs.
An elated Flores is quick to praise Garcia for his heady play – the layup and the assist – in spite of his harassed into an almost miserable afternoon. Flores, himself a former FEU cager, has been stressed out by the job. The strain is obvious in his face and while he has lost weight he has nonetheless retained his jovial nature. The thought of having the luxury of three (four if one would like to make a case for Exciminiano) all-purpose and clutch guards in Garcia, Tolomia, and Terrence Romeo, brings a smile to Flores’ lips.
Now that’s clutch.