Five key moments for Ateneo against NU
by rick olivares
Games can be won or lost on a single play. Athletic events are difficult to pigeon hole. There are ebbs and flows, momentum shifts, or even matches when one team has complete domination.
As the Ateneo Blue Eagles entered the game against title-contender National University in a huge game as they were coming off a loss to UST, I wondered where the team that ran great FEU squads to the ground or dusted off UE, UST, and Adamson who dared to tug on Ateneo’s cape had gone.
This match, the third in a week’s time for the Blue Eagles, was a huge litmus test. They had run the gamut of contending teams one after the other while others seemingly have the easier route.
There were all sorts of questions heading into this game. But at the final buzzer, they had answered adversity. And here’s how…
Opening tip to 9:37 of the 1st Quarter:
If you were wondering how Ateneo would respond to the disappearance of its free flowing passing game then they answered it right here in the opening play.
Greg Slaughter won the jump ball and Juami Tiongson secured the ball. Tiongson, who has been superb at the one spot this season, passed off to Nico Salva who in turn dumped the leather to Slaughter. Still probing the defense, the Blue Eagles’ mammoth center threw the ball back out to the kid they called 'Magic" (back in high school) who immediately swung the ball to the left to Kiefer Ravena. The sophomore guard then threw the ball inside to a cutting Tonino Gonzaga, who started for the first time this season. The ball, however, had too much mustard on it and the graduating swingman had no shot. Gonzaga saved the ball from going out of bounds and dropped it out to Tiongson who set himself at the right corner pocket. Bang. Three ball in.
All five players touched the ball in seven passes. They stretched NU’s defense and the rotation -- Magic's opposite number Gelo Alolino – was a tad late.
Ateneo finished the game with 24 assists. That was nine more than NU and eight more than their total in the UST game. In their first two matches, the Blue Eagles had two players in double figures for each game. After the win over NU, they had four – Salva 21, Ravena 17, Slaughter 14, and Chua 12.
See what happens when you share the wealth?
3:14 1st Quarter
At the 4:07 mark, Ray Parks connected on a triple that brought down Ateneo’s lead to four 17-14. The champs came back with a Gonzaga layup off a drop pass by Slaughter. Parks threw up another three but missed. After another defensive stop, Salva found Ravena streaking forward with Parks the only player holding the fort for NU. Last year’s Rookie of the Year pumped on his drive and baited last year’s MVP who grazed his arm. The shot went in. And one.
Actually, it was more of an and-two for following Ravena’s made free throw, the officials correctly reviewed that Parks’ earlier trey was a two-pointer as he stepped on the line. So it was like a four-point play. Couple with the Gonzaga bucket, the lead was 22-13. The four-point lead was the closest NU would come to Ateneo as the lead ballooned.
Talk about answering a run with one of their own.
At the buzzer to end the first half
Both Slaughter and NU’s Emmanuel Mbe are arguably two of the league’s best big men. Mbe was nearly MVP two years ago but the award went to FEU’s RR Garcia by a slim margin.
While both squads have talented guards and forwards, how Ateneo and NU ultimately fare is where their big men take them.
In the first half, the two redwoods went at each other. Slaughter had 12 points on 6-9 shooting to go with 9 boards, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks. Mbe on the other hand only compiled 10 points and 3 rebounds. But the Cameroonian missed three shots against Slaughter.
With time running down in the half, Mbe attempted a jumper but missed. In the final offensive of the half, Slaughter showed his counterpart how its done when he hit a buzzer beater to give Ateneo 55-34 lead.
How big was the shot by the Big Fella?
Big. Plenty big.
At the buzzer to end the third quarter
The game featured two of the best coaching minds in the country today in Ateneo’s Norman Black and NU’s Eric Altamirano. Both had won titles in the PBA as players and as coaches.
At the start of the game, the plan was to force Parks to pass the ball to his teammates by sending Slaughter out to the perimeter to harry him. NU was quick to adjust by having the wingmen attack and find teammates for drop passes; you know, very much how like La Salle does it. Once Ateneo shut down that option, Parks began to post up his guard and he got away with a lot of points from inside and the free throw line.
Midway through the third quarter, NU went on an 8-0 run to cut Ateneo’s lead to 61-44.
Gonzaga doused cold water on the rally with a deadeye trey to bring up the lead once more to 64-44. The Bulldogs refused to give up the fight and brought the lead back down to 15.
With the seconds slipping away from the third quarter clock, Ryan Buenafe, hit Ateneo’s fourth and last triple of the game. It was at the buzzer and for a 72-54 lead.
Buenafe would finish the game with only three points but he also pulled down 5 rebounds and dished off 3 assists.
His trey was huge because it swung the momentum back to Ateneo for the start of the fourth quarter.
Another rally squelched.
4:51 4th Quarter
Theoretically there is still a lot of time left with 4:51. But with the lead at 81-57, if you didn’t get a few quick licks in the next minute then maybe it was time to throw in the white towel and fight for another day.
There was no basket made at this point. It was actually a turnover as Juami Tiongson was whistled by the referee for an eight-second backcourt violation.
Earlier in the game, the Ateneo coaching staff was seen on several occasions to urge their guards to bring up the ball quickly because they went into attack mode with seven seconds left in the shot clock. You do not get much of a high percentage shot with the shot clock winding down.
Tiongson has ably stepped into the shoes of the graduated Emman Monfort. While the booming treys have not been there, he has more than made up for it with his solid quarterbacking.
In this match, Ateneo had more turnovers as compared to NU, 15-11. But perhaps the most glaring TO was Tiongson’s backcourt violation.
You see, up to that point, Tiongson’s assists to turnover ratio was 6.3 to zero. But of course, nothing is perfect in this world and the Blue Eagles’ point guard did score eight huge points including Ateneo’s first six points to get the party started.
Hey, Ateneo. You have a legit point guard! Take a look at how Magic stacks up to the best of the league (per game):
Juami Tiongson, Ateneo: 26 minutes, 19 assists and 1 turnover
Gelo Alolino, NU: 25.5 minutes, 13 assists and 3 turnovers
RR Garcia, FEU: 34 minutes per game, 11 assists and 4 turnovers
LA Revilla, DLSU: 31 minutes per game, 10 assists and 9 turnovers
Jeric Fortuna, UST: 32.5 minutes per game, 8 assists and 4 turnovers
It’s not just all about key baskets but also key stops and answering runs with one of your own. That all added up to a 89-65 win that sent the Bulldogs crashing back to earth after their 45-point romp over a punchless UE squad on opening day.
It was the best way to bounce back after the loss to UST and at the same time, what a way to get ready with La Salle around the corner.
Three down and 11 to go.
In the comparative stats between Juami and his counterparts, other guards have different roles on their team. Like RR Garcia alternately runs the offense alongside Mike Tolomia and Terrence Romeo.
Here is my other piece on the same Ateneo-NU game that appears on ateneo.edu.
For other stories on Ateneo's Drive for Five, please check out bleachersbrew.blogspot.com