Five lasting images of the Ateneo-UST second round game
by rick olivares pic by raddy mabasa
There are always two sides to any coin and any story. If you bleed blue and white, you can say that yesterday, you were witness to a robbery being committed right in front of you. If you bleed gold and black, an endgame call cost you a win.
We’ll get to trying to figure out all of that but post-match, as I tried to make sense of what had just transpired, I came to a realization that there were lasting images that will define this game long after this season is over.
Let’s work backwards.
Ato Badolato walking off the court after the match
Not soon after the buzzer sounded, the game officials and the technical committee walked off the court towards their locker room. I made eye contact with League Commissioner Ato Badolato as he made his way out. The commissioner, who is colleague of mine with the National Basketball Training Center, looked tired and pained.
It has been a difficult season what with so many controversies on and off the UAAP hardcourt. Not that I am surprised. It has been that way for many many years now. Not since Season 71 (beginning with the ID cards, the Baracael shooting, and ending with the alleged flipping the bird incident by Rico Maierhofer – well there was more but that’s it in a nutshell) has a tournament been more dramatic and controversial.
Badolato never shows much emotion on the court. Not that he needed to since his San Beda Red Cubs usually dominated. We locked eyes and I nodded at him. He shrugged the shrug of a tired and stressed out man and I immediately felt for him.
Every year, every one complains about the officiating. Whether normal or abnormal, it is a fact of life that no one will ever say that he got a fair shake. Despite the spotty officiating that plagued the games, the Pandora’s box opened for Badolato and the league when NU won a favorable decision for the replay of their own controversial match with FEU. The commissioner shot down the protest by the host school and the case was elevated to the Technical Committee composed of member schools. That morphed into the can-Arvie Bringas-play-in-the-replay-or-not.
My take on that is one, the officials counted RR Garcia’s “game winning layup” and that is a judgment call. For the UAAP Board to overturn the Commissioner leaves Badolato in a lame duck position. I was surprised that he did not resign because I thought that this was like a slap on his wrist. Ever the consummate professional, Badolato has continued to go out and do his job. But take a look at the strain on his face. It is so evident.
Nevertheless, something must be done about the woeful officiating.
As I have written before, people in the UAAP Board should run the league and put rules in place. Not enforce them. There should be commissioners who should do that because decisions will be tainted by agendas, rivalries, and politics. And Lord knows such governs this board.
The referee counting the goaltending violation on UST’s Karim Abdul
It goes without saying that officiating is a thankless job and probably one of the most difficult professions.
Having dais that, what I cannot get is how from one game to the next there seem to be a different set of ways how referees interpret fouls and whatnot. I can understand that because in baseball, the umpires have varying sizes of a strike zone. During a FIBA tournament abroad, I sat down with the cage body’s technical committee and asked how the officiating can be so atrocious. Their simple answer was, the game is played differently all over the world in varying styles and physicality as well as the level of play. Hence, they are called differently. I can appreciate the answer but I still fail to understand why the rules of the game need to be interpreted differently.
And that leads to UST’s protesting the goaltending violation slapped on Karim Abdul who swatted away an alahoy shot by Ateneo’s Ryan Buenafe.
Of course the rules are different from that time especially with the introduction of technology.
Since the UAAP follows FIBA rules, the rules on goaltending state (Article 31.2 on Goaltending): “Goaltending occurs during a shot for a field goal when a player touches the ball when it is completely above the level of the ring and: it is in its downward flight to the basket, or after it has touched the backboard.”
Whether the shot seems to be short or not is debatable and that is not subject to instant replay. Clearly it was on its downward spiral. It is a judgment call. The shot was counted. If ever, Karim Abdul should have not tried to block it. But that is of course in hindsight. A player will not wait for a call to try and block an attempt.
I find it a little disappointing that UST will file a protest. You already got the calls and non-calls and you still want another?
An irate Norman Black walking on to the court to challenge the referee
Inside the pressroom, a colleague of mine Reuben Terrado asked if this was the most irate Coach Norman was in a game to which he replied yes.
I was nervous that he would be assessed a technical foul by the referees. The calls were horrendous that at that point, it seemed cruel to levy one at Coach Norman.
To say that his challenging the referee ensured that Ateneo would get the call on the next play is incorrect. The foul and the goaltending are obvious. If you want to get ticky tacky about it then how about in the previous play after the ball was stolen from Ryan Buenafe (whether he was fouled or not I am not sure), Kevin Ferrer, who picked up the ball, traveled.
That Ateneo won it is beside the point, the refs had mucked up this game is cause for concern. But Stormin’ Norman… wow. Along with Lawrence Chiongson getting down on his knees in Season 73, a crestfallen and teary-eyed Pido Jarencio after being eliminated in Season 74, Joe Lipa smashing his clipboard on the hardcourt in Season 61, Aric del Rosario entering the Araneta Coliseum in the Final Four against La Salle in Season 60 to deafening cheers (as they tried to stave off La Salle’s ascent) after arriving via helicopter from a game with the MBA’s Pampanga Dragons are some of the lasting images of coaches I will never ever forget.
Kiefer Ravena’s flush on Karim Abdul
Up to that point, I thought that Ray Parks’ posterizing of Arnold Van Opstal was dunk of the tournament. But now I am not so sure. When Ray attacked the basket, Van Opstal realized too late that he was going to get it and he tried to get out of the way. In Ravena’s slam, after receiving a tap from Juami Tiongson, he hightailed it downcourt with every intention of dunking it to give his team a massive lift. The Ateneo Blue Eagles seemed out of it until that.
It was disappointing to see how the Blue Eagles came out against a well-prepared UST team. What I cannot figure out is how they can make boneheaded passes that the opponents can read a mile away. Twice they rallied to get within a point but turnovers would allow UST to make a run.
Ravena kept Ateneo in the game before Ryan Buenafe and then Juami Tiongson came up with huge spurts on their own.
They also did it on the defensive end with Oping Sumalinog stealing the ball with those impossibly long arms of his picking off Jeric Teng and Buenafe’s stripping of Aljon Mariano. The problem is Ateneo did not convert on those steals.
As huge as the shots of Buenafe and Tiongson were, Kiefer Ravena was the Player of the Game for me as he eventually shut down Teng and hit big shots. There were a couple of instances when he passed the ball (leading to a turnover) when he should have taken the shot but he made up for it for his leadership.
I wondered why were we trying to force the issue inside when UST would throw three tall players on Slaughter to force him to cough up that ball. The execution wasn’t spot on in this match but at least we eked out a win.
But Ravena and that flush….
Kiefer admitted post-game that when he saw Abdul give chase, he was going to take it really strong or else he’d get blocked. And it turned out to be better than expected. He should have also been given an extra free throw as Abdul also got him in the face. The Phenom however will have to settle for a highlight that will live forever.
Jeric Teng’s pistolero move
When I see the bang bang hand movements following a Jeric Teng basket, I smile (but not at Ateneo’s expense; sorry, Jeric).
I once saw a game where De La Salle Zobel’s Erika Dy (who eventually played for Ateneo in college) made a huge trey then look to the opposing team and gave them a bang bang hand sign before doing the cartwheel to which I thought, “Man! What a shot (pun intended).” I had hoped she’d do that later with Ateneo but I probably missed it.
And then there was La Salle’s LA Revilla who in his freshman year made those gestures after the Mac Baracael shooting incident. Didn’t look funny at all back then. Revilla has since matured then but I am still happy that -- to paraphrase U2’s Bono in their version of the Beatles’ Helter Skelter in their Rattle and Hum album – the shot was stolen back and co-opted by Jeric Teng after similar huge bucket.
I think that after then-Ateneo star Eric Salamat giving the crowd a salute after a shot or in the pros, Gary David looking at his hands like he felt the power of Greyskull flowing through him, Teng’s pistolero move gives UST some swagger.
And the one thing that you do not want UST to get going is from the outside. Once they’ve homed in they are almost impossible to stop. When Teng was making all those early shots, I told myself that if after his customary rest he still waxed hot, we’re in deep shit. But mercifully for Ateneo, he cooled off as he scored only two points in the payoff period.
Clark Bautista and Kevin Ferrer hit a few huge ones late in the game that had me worried. While the final play was for Aljon Mariano to create, I was surprised that they did not find Ferrer who was momentarily open as Ryan Buenafe was a little late to cover him. Nevertheless, Mariano could have won it as Nico Salva really isn’t that great a perimeter defender. UST was 5-23 from three-point range for 21% FG accuracy and at 36% for the entire game. Not their best shooting night as they were kept in the game by Abdul’s 22 points and 76.9% shooting clip.
It was a hard-fought, intense, ulcer inducing, and controversial. But the 68-66 win for Ateneo that gave them a 12-2 record and the top seed heading into the Final Four.
The question now is, is this what to expect from hereon?
Fourteen played and three wins to go in this Drive for Five.
Watch for my other piece on ateneo.edu that is more of a game analysis.
Watch for my other piece on ateneo.edu that is more of a game analysis.