In a gathering of eagles, Ateneo tops USA to enter Unigames hoops finals
by rick olivares photo by brosi g.
October 28, 2011
You think baseball and tennis are the only sports delayed by rain?
In the semifinals match between Ateneo de Manila University and the University of San Agustin at the Capiz Gym, the match was stopped twice as rain seeped through the roof and fell on several places on the court.
The first was at the 2:51 mark of the first quarter with Ateneo leading 13-6. With water seeping through on the shaded lane of USA’s goal, it took eight minutes before officials deemed the court wiped free of damp spots. Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga and San Agustin coach Rodolfo Benito Jr. both worried that their teams would cool off so they sent their players to shoot around to keep their rhythm going but the referees shooed them back.
Upon the resumption of the game, Benito’s fear was justified as the USA Golden Eagles committed a backcourt violation, gave up a layup to Ateneo’s Justin Chua, and failed to get a shot off in their next possession.
Then the rains dripped through again forcing another stoppage in play.
When the game continued, it was Ateneo’s turn to momentarily lose their focus. Twice at half court they were unable to get the ball across as the Golden Eagles’ swingman Joven Patizar stripped the Blue Eagles’ Joma Adornado of the ball. And each time USA scored to come within five, 10-15.
The momentary lapse in concentration was snapped when Ateneo’s Jeric Estrada scored on an and-one. Although Estrada missed the free throw, the Blue Eagles had arrested the short skid with an 8-0 run over the next three minutes that bridged the first and second quarters, 25-12 Ateneo.
Just as in their quarterfinals match with Hercor College, the blues were up against a home crowd that cheered on the Visayan teams. But their stellar play, teamwork, and defense always won over the audience that appreciated a well-played match of basketball.
Up against a very athletic USA team (both starting guards had excellent crossover moves) that also had a corps of excellent marksmen, the Blue Eagles had to send help to defend against the dribble penetration of the Golden Eagles.
Benito’s squad scored six straight points in the early minutes of the fourth period that necessitated a return of four starters in Tiongson, Gonzaga, Capacio, and Erram alongside Paul Siarot.
Ateneo’s 19 assists and selfless play not only stretched San Agustin’s defense but it opened the floor for some razzle dazzle basketball that saw both Juami Tiongson and Tonino Gonzaga score on a pair of acrobatic layups.
The fourth period saw USA score straight points behind Skyld Corillo (13 points) and Jan Rey Madulin (7 points) while Ateneo was whistled for four fouls in the same stretch. Once more the early first half blitz served up a huge lead that was a buffer against the impending rally and spotty officiating.
After Madulin scored on an and-one off a Chua foul to make it 50-65, the Blue Eagles answered every USA with a bucket of their own or a defensive stop. They restored a 22-point lead with 5:21 left after Gwynne Capacio (14 points) scored on an inside stab after a feed from Gonzaga.
From thereon, the Blue Eagles coasted to a 77-62 win to enter the finals of the men’s basketball competition of the 16th Unigames.
“We had some defensive lapses that allowed their (USA) shooters to hit some shots that got their confidence going,” said coach Sandy Arespacochaga after the match. “We will have to work on that when we face West Negros University (that defeated St. Francis of Assisi College 66-55 in their semis match up).”
The last time Ateneo won the Unigames basketball title was two years ago against St. Francis of Assisi College. The WNU Mustangs last won the Unigames championship was in 2006 when they had Nonoy Baclao playing for them.
“It’s going to be an interesting match-up,” said Arespacochaga.
Ateneo de Manila University 77 – Chua 17, Capacio 14, Gonzaga 10, Tiongson 8, Adornado 8, Pessumal 7, Siarot 4, Erram 3, Estrada 2, Cipriano 2, Golla 2, Mercado 0.
University of San Agustin 62 – Corillo 13, Sombrea 11, Agudo 10, Zate 9, Madulin 7, Alojipan 3, Alagaban 2, Quimsing 2, Griño 2.