Five thoughts on this Final Four win over La Salle
I wrote the copy to this video and the subsequent documentary we're doing. Watch for it.
by rick olivares
Rust never sleeps
Getting the number one seed and the twice-to-beat advantage is good but the lay-off – any layoff – can be bad. Imagine not playing for two weeks. And the rust showed.
Advantage to La Salle because they looked sharp and their defense this time contained Greg Slaughter.
However, it wasn’t only the long lay-off that anyone had to worry about. When you add the disconcerting and unnerving fallout between Ateneo and disengaged team patron Manuel V. Pangilinan that has been online fodder these past two weeks you wonder if it will weigh heavy on the Blue Eagles.
I spoke with a few players in the previous week who all admitted that it threw them off for a bit but a meeting with their coach and a team dinner with MVP helped put them back on track.
Said Kiefer Ravena who passed by my classroom in Ateneo the other day, “There are things that are beyond our control. What we can do as a team is try to control our destiny with our play on the court.”
Unfortunately, one referee tried to control the game – and possibly the outcome -- with all sorts of bizarre calls.
If it isn’t obvious, we are up against more than the five opposing players on the court
Every side complains about the officiating. Every side says that the ref has it in for them.
I remember an anecdote told by a former coach of one of the teams that played in the Final Four about how their athletic director – in a casual conversation during a previous season – suggested buying off the referees.
That former coach shot him an incredulous look and said, “We don’t do that here.” And this athletic director shrugged.
While doing a story on former Ateneo head coach Joe Lipa when I asked him about these unseen forces, he said, “You can smell it but you can’t see it.” And I believe the man they call “Da Nose”.
Having watched the UAAP for a long time, I have seen some players change their free throw stances, make inexplicable shots, or miss shots that well they should make. I believe one coach even gave away a game. And that’s just in basketball. A former football player admitted that his team deliberately lost a game so they could play a team they wanted to get revenge on.
I thought that the first two Ateneo-La Salle matches were generally well officiated. Fool I was to think that this one would be the same. Not when it’s moneytime (pun intended).
I still have no idea if our referees review the calls – via video and not the chitchat that seems to be the norm -- they make during the course of a game. Some of these guys have no shame and more so with the league that allows this.
Back to this Final Four match up. Some of these calls were momentum breakers and they gave La Salle every chance to either stay within striking distance or even win the game. It wasn’t like the UST game that was atrociously officiated but this was dangerously close.
It is obvious coaches are testing the commissioner
Ever since Commissioner Ato Badolato was shot down on his ruling in the second round match between FEU and NU as well as the subsequent, Ateneo-UST match, you could see coaches testing him.
Remember when Norman Black was not called for a technical foul for crossing the court to question a referee? I understand why he did that but it did warrant a T. UST’s Pido Jarencio then opined that if he did the same and were slapped with a foul call then all hell would break loose.
Watching La Salle challenge Kiefer Ravena’s three-point shot late (at the 2:28 mark of the fourth quarter) that was taken with 4:00 to play was bogus. They had no timeouts left and they sought to challenge the shot to give them an opportunity to pull their team together for some instructions. Green Archers assistant coach Jun Limpot crossed the court to talk to the ref and they blinked. See what happens when people monkey around with the game?
Yet incredibly, this was right before Greg Slaughter was supposed to make a free throw.
Normally, a replay of a previous shot is made during the course of a game and the game barker announces the challenge and the correction of a call during a lull. But this one was insidious.
That challenge took several minutes and that broke the momentum of Ateneo. Slaughter missed the free throw that would have given the Blue Eagles a five-point lead and Almond Vosotros nailed a trey to bring the lead down.
The deliberate foul on Kiefer Ravena on Jeron Teng with 15.6 seconds left was another WTF moment.
I have always said that I do not mind losing but not like this. As for those challenges, if it is proven wrong then the team that called for it must be charged with a timeout or even slapped a technical foul because it is an obvious delaying tactic. The NFL has successfully worked that into their rule book and maybe that is something the UAAP should do as well.
I hear the opposing side say that Ryan Buenafe fouled Teng and that caused him to lose the ball. Sure it was. But the ref missed it and a foul cannot be called on a replay. The call was to check if the ball went off Teng.
Upon the resumption of the game, that ref (#7) who had been making all sorts of bad calls against Ateneo announced that the ball was going to La Salle! When the other referee tried to correct him, you could see in the manner of his reaction that he was angry at being corrected. Yet this official went to the technical table to review the play and he saw that it was off Teng’s hands!
I shudder to think what awaits us in the finals.
That was a marvelous one-two-three combination
There are only two teams in the UAAP this season that have three players who average in double figures and they will both be playing in the finals.
UST that has Karim Abdul, Jeric Teng, and Aljon Mariano.
And Ateneo that has Kiefer Ravena, Greg Slaughter, and Nico Salva.
That means both teams have potent starting fives that can blow away foes with their firepower. No doubt opposing teams will try to stop one or two of them so it is up to another starter or even a bench player to pick up the slack.
Nico Salva carried the team early on before turning it over to Kiefer Ravena who had an incandescent fourth quarter. Then the last five points for the Blue Eagles went Ryan Buenafe who finished off La Salle.
Salva was automatic from the outside until he decided to mix it up with some drives that didn’t do too well.
I remember in last year’s Champions League where Kiefer Ravena did not play well at all. That continued all the way to the pre-season and even the first game of this Season 75. I hoped that there wouldn’t be a sophomore jinx but there has been none. That says a lot about his talent to the point where he can be overlooked. But following the loss to UE, he’s ratcheted up his game several levels higher. Phenom indeed.
When La Salle went up by 11, many teams would have folded under the face of that intense kind of pressure. If there is a hallmark about Norman Black’s Ateneo teams, it has been their resiliency. The boys in blue came back but Kiefer strapped the team onto his back in that fourth period with a nifty assist to Greg Slaughter for an and-one, he buried three treys including one that bounced on the rim before settling in the bottom of the net, and there was that pass to Buenafe who was at the right corner pocket.
Remember Ryan’s three for three against FEU in Season 73? In this Final Four game against La Salle, Buenafe was 0-5 from La La Land but this one – as his legend grows as a clutch player – was straight and true. Classic Buenafe.
When La Salle pulled that faux timeout/challenge, Ryan stole it back from them by forcing Jeron Teng into a lane violation. Unfortunately, he botched the next play as the time nearly ran out on a one-on-one before he kicked out at the last moment. He redeemed himself with that dagger and two free throws to ice the game and Ateneo’s fifth consecutive trip to the UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals.
Right before the two teams went out to the court for their warm-ups, Buenafe’s old San Sebastian high teammate Almond Vosotros went to Jojo de la Rama and said, “Paki sabi kay Ryan wag niyang galingan.”
As Buenafe trooped to the free throw line for two shots with the game on the line, Vosotros went to him to give him some friendly advice. It didn’t work.
I asked Ryan outside Café Adriatico in Gateway last night what Vosotros said to him. Said Mr. Clutch, “I didn’t understand; Tagalog, eh.” We had quite a hearty laugh.
We’re back in the Finals
When I used to listen to my dad’s stories about Ateneo championships, I’d go “wow.” He was in grade school when Rusty Cacho led the seniors to titles in 1953 and ’54. He was in high school when the seniors won behind Ed Ocampo in 1957 and ’58. When he was in college, his classmates helped ye old blue and white to another NCAA championship in 1961. Kaya mayabang batch ng dad ko.
But I too have my stories to tell. In grade school, Ateneo basketball was in its first Dark Age. In high school, we were taking all comers and handing their backs at them for back-to-back UAAP Juniors crowns. By the time I got to college, we took the 1987 and ’88 championships, the first two for Ateneo in the UAAP. That was won with many of my batch mates – Sep Canlas, Jun Reyes, Jet Nieto (whose kids you should watch in the juniors team), Alex Araneta, Jay Gayoso (he has his own wunderkid playing football for Ateneo), and Gene Afable.
After the winless 1990s, it was an explosion of emotions when we won in 2002. The joke by La Salle back then was our next title would come in another 14 years. For a while, I wondered if they were right as we lost in 2003 and 2006.
I knew our time had come in Season 71 and we could make it back-to-back. Winning three straight, well, that was downright historic as the last Ateneo team to accomplish that was many generations ago (1931-33). To win four straight is fantastic and now, to play for a historic fifth straight title, well, I’d tell you more but let’s just wait ‘til it’s all done. Then what a marvelous story that would be.
Fifteen down. Two to win.
|Pic by Philip Sison|
After dinner at Oyster Boy, I bumped into the Ravena family who I have been friends with since well Bong and Mozzy weren't married yet. Hahaha. I told Bong: "Galing talaga ng anak mo. Pero mas magaling pa rin yung Bong Ravena." Bong laughed and disagreed. Mozzie disagreed too. While Kief has surpassed his dad in terms of championships at this level, Bong was a force of nature if you saw him play then. I don't recall anyone stopping him. You just hoped he had a bad day or that he got into foul trouble. So there.
Also spoke to two of my friends on the La Salle team -- Joshua Webb and Arnold Van Opstal. Told Webb to continue to work hard so he'd get into the PBA. As for Arnold, this guy can get so much better. While Webb is off the team as he's done with eligibility, AVO has three more years. La Salle will have a very good team next year. Love these two guys.