Red Warriors rising
by rick olivares
If there is one team that has been impressive during the first two days of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, it is the University of the East Red Warriors. They were the only team that looked sharp from the opening whistle down to the final buzzer.
Even before the summer tournament tipped off, the Red Warriors made no bones about their intentions for the upcoming UAAP season. “We believe we have a good team that can bring UE back to glory,” said third year center Chris Javier during the press conference for the Filoil Master All-Star Basketball Challenge the previous week.
“We are hoping to do something what James Yap, Ronald Tubid, Elmer Espiritu, and Paul Lee were unable to do,” added head coach Boysie Zamar who was with the last UE team to win a title (1985).
The Red Warriors began to play well in the second round of UAAP Season 75. They lost a close decision to NU (83-74), defeated UP (79-76), upset Ateneo (79-77), lost another close one to FEU (83-78), got crushed by Adamson (89-69), and closed out the year with a defeat to UST (87-75).
In the succeeding University Games in Bacolod, they made the finals but didn’t show up for it as they went to play in a tournament abroad. And now, they are flush with excitement over the new season.
Against a Southwestern University team with three Africans, UE, playing all-Filipino and without African Charles Mamie who is out for the moment due to disciplinary reasons, opened up an early 11-0 run that they nursed and padded for the rest of the game. They ran SWU out of the gym with 19 fastbreak points. The Recto-based squad took a cue from Ateneo’s defense of SWU and harried the Cobras into 31 turnovers. UE converted those errors into 16 turnover points and 11 second chance points.
The returning Lord Casajeros hit four of six three-point attempts. Despite starting center Chris Javier bothered by foul trouble (from defending Fabrice Siewe and Landry Sanjo), the Red Warriors weren’t too far behind SWU in the rebound department 46-43.
Simply put, the Cobras were never in the game as UE rolled to an impressive 81-62 win.
“Sawa na ako matalo,” ventured guard Roi Sumang. “Gusto namin ibalik ang UE sa Final Four. Nakakainis na matalo. Aggressive kami sa practice. Hindi kami nagpapatalo sa isa’t isa.”
The Red Warriors have veterans in Sumang, Adrian Santos, Casajeros, forward JM Noble, Jay-Ar Sumido, and Jai Flores. They have huge pick ups in Ralf Olivarez, Gino Jumao-as, and Mario Bonleon.
“We have 19 in our lineup but we need only 16 to play,” said Zamar of his team. “They are all fighting for those 16 slots.”
“Marami naman magaling na team diyan,” added the returning head coach who also once coached the team of James Yap, Ronald Tubid, and Paul Artadi for UE. “Basta kami laban lang. Pero iba motivation namin ngayon. Iba kasi kapag para sa pamilya. Yung pamilya namin na UE.”