Stags teach UE a lesson in true grit
by rick olivares
If you saw Michael “Topex” Robinson play for San Sebastian College, then what you’re seeing is a mirror image of today’s batch of Stags – uptempo hoops played at a frenetic pace.
The Stags were behind a dozen after UE rookie Mario Bonleon hit a free throw, 52-40, with a little over four minutes to play in the third period. UE guard Roi Sumang was the lone and consistent force for the Red Warriors as he scored 15 points in the first half.
Then Robinson decided to put this year’s Calvin Abueva model on Sumang – Jaymark “CJ” Perez. Not only was 6”3” Perez, the Pangasinan native, fast and shifty enough to stay with Sumang but he was more athletic and blessed with long arms.
Perez disrupted UE’s offense and that’s when they began their earnest comeback.
With 2:01 left in the third, the lead was chopped down to eight (Jay-R Sumido scored on an and-one to stop the bleeding) when Raffy Gusi scored on back-to-back fastbreak layups all courtesy of Perez who pilfered the ball from opposing guards.
Perez, who was once recruited by De La Salle, operated like a free safety, taking on Sumang and raiding the passing lanes for steals. He sandwiched a basket by center Mark Tano with a free throw and another twisting layup for a 59-58 lead, their first taste of it for the entire game.
But UE center Chris Javier scored on a putback. Perez answered.
With the momentum on SSCR’s side, Robinson sent back Leo De Vera into the game. At that point, De Vera had scored six points. Perez’ game was contagious and you could sense at that point the momentum shift.
However, the Red Warriors made an adjustment as they closed down Perez. If Perez works on his upper body strength, he will be lethal with those floaters, fades, and hang time shots. It seems that he expends a lot of energy on his moves that when he takes those fades and pullups, it’s more often than not – short. In all four of his games thus far in the tournament, it has been the same.
Luckily for San Sebastian, just as the clamps were put on Perez, De Vera, the San Fernando Valley, California native, then hit four triples in a incandescent stretch that had the San Juan Arena rocking. He hit them with a hand in his face and once on a pull-up!
By the time he was done, he had snatched defeat from UE by leveling the count at 78-all. He also got it done on the defensive end when he forced a jumpball on Mario Bonleon giving the Stags possession. He had a chance to win it outright in regulation but he over shot a putback!
The Red Warriors were also unlucky as they missed a lot of point blank stabs and open shots. Yet in overtime, Charles Mammie looked to win it all for UE as he scored all nine of his team’s points. But San Sebastian. Now without their two centers in Mark Tano and Bradwyn Guinto went back to Perez (De Vera was shut down by Adrian Santos).
Perez juked Sumido with a nifty stutter step for a lay-up. He missed the shot but was fouled (he converted one free throw), 81-83, UE. Perez found Bobby Balucanag for a shot and the SSCR vet hit a free throw, 82-83.
Mammie looked like he was going to win the game by his lonesome as he scored again underneath but he missed the bonus. Even worse, Sumido was called for an eight-second backcourt violation that gave San Sebastian a chance to whittle the lead down. True enough, Perez added three-points on the conventional three-point play making it 85-87 time down to 40 seconds.
Incredibly, UE missed again inside and the Stags had an opportunity to steal the game. With 19 seconds left and Perez and De Vera closely marked, Perez found second year guard Gio Vergara along by the right corner pocket. The pass was too easy. Bang. Three-pointer and UE had the lead, 88-87. UE fumbled away the ball and Perez closed out the game with another free throw for a pulsating, come-from-behind 89-87 victory.
Gotta love how the young guns on the Stags team are making it happen for them.
As for UE, they are a good team. Their shooting was just horrendous and they committed a lot of mistakes in the endgame. The number that Perez did on Sumang was huge. And the Stags taught UE a telling lesson in hunger and grit. Now, I’d love to see these Stags go up against San Beda.