Five reasons to be happy about the start of Ateneo’s Drive for Five.
by rick olivares
The Drive for Five by the Ateneo Blue Eagles tipped off with a win over the Adamson Falcons, 73-57.
Yet it would be so easy to dismiss the Blue Eagles’ opening day win over the Falcons as an ugly win. If you’re missing those point-point passing, highlight reel plays, and hellacious defense then maybe you’re right.
The first half was horrible to watch. Lots of poor decision making, Kiefer Ravena looks to be in the midst of a sophomore slump (he has not played well since last season’s Champions League), and there was hardly any passing.
Now here’s why you’re wrong.
Among the eight UAAP schools that played this weekend, Ateneo had the best shooting percentage.
NU – 40.2%
UE – 26%
FEU – 43.9%
UST – 37.8%
DLSU – 40.3%
UP – 31.6%
AdMU – 44.4%
AdU – 30.7%
As ugly as it was for Ateneo for the first 25 minutes, it was worse for all the other teams. So what are you complaining about? The Blue Eagles registered the second biggest winning margin (16 points) on opening weekend after NU’s lobotomy of the hapless Red Warriors (35 points).
First day jitters aside, the stars of many teams didn’t not exactly play well. There’s NU’s Ray Parks who eventually got going but it was Jeffrey Javillionar who set the tempo for the game and the win.
UST’s Jeric Fortuna bungled his way into a loss. La Salle’s Jeron Teng didn’t shoot well but did well in the clutch to help his side to a win.
Who did well? FEU’s RR Garcia was phenomenal. As was Adamson’s Alex Nuyles and Ateneo’s Greg Slaughter.
Here are other reasons to feel good about this Opening Day win.
For the first time in Norman Black’s eight years in Ateneo, he sent in 15 players on Opening Day.
I have always believed that players respond well when used on opening day. Sure it’s the coach’s decision whether some one comes in or not. But the feeling when one plays is – I was good enough to get in as opposed to I was not good enough to be called in.
Remember when Doug Kramer had that snazzy UAAP interstitial where he said, “Let’s get it on.” Only he never got off the bench that season. However, one has to credit Kramer because where he is today is a product of a lot of hardwork and dedication.
On Sunday against Adamson, almost every Blue Eagle (save for Giboy Babilonia) got in even if only for a minute. Eleven of the 15 players scored. Only NU fielded more players (they sent in all 16 against UE with 13 players scoring). It would have been 12 for Ateneo but Gwynne Capacio flubbed his chances to get on the score sheet. Nevertheless, I promise you will serve the team well in the long run as they got to be a part of the opening day win.
It was the combination of Ryan Buenafe, JP Erram, Justin Chua, Nico Elorde, and Von Pessumal who helped give the Blue Eagles a huge cushion. Erram and Buenafe were the game changers for Ateneo (aside from Greg Slaughter).
And in a curious bit of trivia, there were three former De La Salle Zobel boys on the floor for Ateneo in the final seconds of play. There was Gwynne Capacio, Nico Elorde, and Isaac Lim.
The last time that happened was in 1996 when Gabby Cui and Bryan and Brandon Sison were on the floor for the Blue Eagles.
So it’s nice to see some people see the light.
A third reason is Ateneo’s response to Alex Nuyles.
It was maddening to watch Ateneo unable to respond to Adamson’s simple play – drive and drop. Why they would allow the ball to find it’s way to Nuyles’ hands is beyond me. D-E-N-I-A-L.
The only one whom had success against the Falcons’ skywalker was Nico Elorde who gave as good as he got (elbows and jabs). He isn’t an Elorde for nothing. Flash would have been proud because on one play, Nuyles popped him and the point guard’s head snapped back. On the next play, he sent an elbow to Nuyles that staggered the King Falcon.
Then Ateneo gave Adamson a dose of its own medicine when they finally gave the ball to Ryan Buenafe at the close of the third quarter and the early fourth. In the FilOil match against La Salle, I was surprised after a while the ball was taken out of Buenafe’s hands and moved around. He had the hot hand. Isn’t it conventional wisdom to give the ball to the hot hand?
UP paid for that mistake earlier when Mark Lopez was removed after he helped bring the Fighting Maroons back and then was a forgotten man at the end. Rather than have the ball in Mike Silungan’s hands it went to Jett Manuel who had a terrible game. Talk about coaching blunders.
That is why you should be thankful that the ball found its way to Buenafe’s hands. He repeatedly drove in to fish for fouls and dime drops.
When Buenafe has the ball, the team was able to push a lot faster. His two bullet forward passes – one to Tonino Gonzaga and the other to JP Erram – were sent not to where his teammate was but where he expected them to be for an unmolested layup. That’s basketball intelligence right there. And we got points off those two passes. Watching those two plays from my vantage point was like watching New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera deliver his two-seam cutter knowing it will find the glove of catcher Jorge Posada with a batter whiffing in the wind.
I am all for Ryan Buenafe getting the ball more especially with Kiefer Ravena struggling.
Fourth, the rumors that the Ateneo fastbreak is dead is definitely premature.
Ateneo scored 22 fastbreak points off 14 attempts. Second only to NU’s 28 this opening weekend. That also means we only botched three opportunities.
How is that when Adamson outrebounded Ateneo 48-47 with 21 offensive boards to the 9 of the Blue Eagles? Simple. The Falcons did their job in the first half. The second half was all Ateneo.
And the fifth and last reason for the win -- defense.
It’s such a cliché but Ateneo did it’s job. Erram gave Eric Camson a lot to think about with those long arms of his. Greg blocked four shots tying NU’s Henri Betayene with the most on opening weekend. Their points off turnovers is second to NU (15 to 22).
For all the bad moments, it was a 16-point win against a tough Adamson team (where a lot of credit goes to Leo Austria) that was a perfect way to get back at the Falcons for a loss in the final match of Season 74’s second round. It exorcises the ghosts of that game and it sends a message to the Falcons that the loss is a damned fluke and it’s time to start another streak.
But if you know Norman Black, that’s for another time. Let’s just take it one game at a time.
One down and 13 to go.
Had a nice brief chat with Norman Black yesterday about two and a half hours before the game. Coach noticed that I was gone for quite a spell and he said that he checked Brew to see what I was up to. We also spoke about the Saturday UAAP games. These are the stuff that I miss just to be able to discuss stuff like this. I mean, I was a kid who watched coach play for San Miguel and later coach them. and now we're swapping stories and game insights. It's a dream for someone like me who grew up watching the PBA and the UAAP.