Six things to take away from Ateneo’s Filoil win against La Salle
by rick olivares
Every summer, there’s always these bunch of nerves that you try to calm and soothe. You know that pretty soon your teams is going to be tested. Through the years, the players who helped win Ateneo five straight UAAP championships has been depleted. There are new players and you wonder how they will hold up to the challenge of being the hunted. And you wonder how teams have reloaded to beat you.
The litmus test is always against the previous year’s final four teams and of course, your traditional rivals.
You could sense that La Salle was aching for this match up. It’s an opportunity to test this new team of theirs that they know is good enough to snatch that crown atop the Blue Eagles’ head.
I’ve made no bones about the possibility of La Salle and National University clashing for the UAAP title. The UE Red Warriors and UST Growling Tigers will be massive contenders just as well. Where do the Blue Eagles still fit in all of this? Well, they’re still the champions until someone take it away. With every team loaded for bear, every game, every slot for the Final Four will be hotly contested. Now, if Ateneo makes the Final Four, then everybody watch out now because title number six will be a definite possibility.
The Green Archers have looked frightening as they blitzed right through the competition en route through racking up insane winning margins. Plus, they have several wondrous new weapons. All the more to defeat Ateneo, my dear.
The Blue Eagles in the meantime, soldiered through the summer with its injury-ravaged line-up. In fact, they were never complete. Someone or two (and now, five) have always been out at the same time. Furthermore, the lack of ceiling was glaring.
What people miss it they got by with who they had. They played undersized and with lineups right out of a Don Nelson playbook. Incredibly, they found their verve in the face of adversity. You can say yes, they still have Kiefer Ravena. But never fail to mention the bench because they aren’t exactly chopped liver.
And that brings us to La Salle in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup and six things that you can glean from Ateneo’s 78-70 win over La Salle.
One, that was great defense played on La Salle.
One might think that Ateneo showed too much against La Salle. Seriously! With only 10 men? And three of them who are in the rotation? Nope. It’s the same brand of defense and offense (with some new wrinkles) that the new head coach has installed.
Chris Newsome and Ryan Buenafe played Jeron Teng tough. The sophomore Green Archer scored 14 points but that was on 6-18 shooting (he had two points from the stripe). Ryan didn’t particularly play a good game but he did a little of everything and blocked two of Teng’s shots. Newsome also had 11 boards to pace Ateneo that collectively only had one less rebound to La Salle’s 44. And these guys had taller players in Arnold Van Opstal, Norbert Torres, Jason Perkins, and Teng.
Almost every shot by La Salle was challenged as well.
Two, the battle between Blue Mamba and the Ravena stopper(s) is worth the price of admission.
In last year’s Filoil meeting between the two rivals, Jed Manguera, ear-marked as La Salle’s defensive specialist, had a great game against Kiefer Ravena in a Green Archers win. And such, was matched up later on with the likes of NU’s Ray Parks or even FEU’s RR Garcia. However, in the two UAAP elimination round meetings between Ateneo and La Salle, Ravena made mincemeat out of Manguera.
This year, La Salle has rookie Robert Bolick who mans the point guard position. He somewhat reminds me of a smaller version of American professional basketball player Matt Barnes – an athletic long-armed specimen who plays the points and likes to take on the tough assignments. I was surprised to see him from the opening whistle talking trash and yapping at Ravena.
This reminded me of former Vancouver Grizzly Darrick Martin who woofed Michael Jordan during a match in 1996 (when the Chicago Bulls won 72 games) match. “You ain’t so hot,” crowed Martin to Jordan who was on the bench cooling his heels. “I told you we were going to beat your butts.”
Jordan, who had taken off his shoes, laced them up and proceeded to the scorer’s table. When he checked in, Jordan scored the next nine points to lift Chicago to a win.
Bolick who was talking to Ravena right from the start. After Ravena lost the ball, the intense La Salle rookie clapped at the King Eagle’s direction. In return, the rook got posted up four times. Each time, Mamba nailed a rainbow shot that was all net.
Then it was Thomas Torres’ turn on him. Three more buckets.
After that it was Almond Vosotros’ turn. Bucket.
It was an incandescent performance by Ravena: 31 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.
Three, in the tradition of the elevation of Doug Kramer and Ford Arao, Frank Golla has arrived.
Remember, Frank Golla did well as he alternated with Justin Chua in 2010 when the Blue Eagles bridged the gap for between Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Greg Slaughter. The former RP Youth teamer sort of lost confidence as he sat and sat behind Slaughter.
This year with Kris Porter out. GBoy Babilonia sidelined. And JP Erram not a hundred percent., Golla has been the rock in the middle. In year’s past he would have slugged and challenged some of the opposing players for their cheap shots. This year, well, he’s all grown up. He knows his importance to the team and has curbed that rage inside to play solid basketball.
And he’s played surprisingly well – rebounding, passing, and occasionally scoring.
Under Norman Black’s system, he had a role to play and that was defense. In Bo Perasol’s system, if he’s open, he can knock down those shots. Against La Salle, he knocked down six of nine attempts for 12 points on top of pulling down seven boards.
Four, this team is just like the three-peat team of 2010.
Prior to the summer leagues, teams were salivating at the chance to play Ateneo sans its graduated stars. I guess, no one expected them to be at 7-1 in the Filoil tournament.
Yes, the Blue Eagles play small ball and have few options at the slot. There are other guard-oriented line-ups out there. Far Eastern University comes to mind. But the Blue Eagles are a disciplined bunch. Even depleted, you will not see them play helter skelter basketball.
Even this early, you can see others stepping up – Nico Elorde, Von Pessumal, Frank Golla, Vince Tolentino, and there’s Anton Asistio. Asistio came in and missed his first three-point shot. He adjusted his gun sights and nailed his next two.
Said the young combo guard, “You have to be ready when your number is called up.”
Does their pre-season record raise expectations? No, let’s put it like this. Temper your expectations. This is a pre-season. We have yet to wonder how this team will look come UAAP time when it’s playing for keeps and the pressure goes up.
Five, this is Ateneo’s first win over La Salle in the Filoil tournament. In years past, the Blue Eagles would lose but go on to win the UAAP tournament.
If you put your faith in such coincidences then maybe the UAAP tourney should not be played. Even when this competition was known as the Home and Away league, Ateneo never beat them. This comes at a time when the team is hurting. It’s a good one and one that closes out their summer. And that leads me to the final point.
Six, is pulling out of all the summer tournaments the right thing?
In case you haven’t heard, even after topping Filoil’s Group B, Ateneo is pulling out of not only the Filoil tourney but also the Fr. Martin’s Cup.
The team debated not playing anymore even before the La Salle game what with all their injuries but they chose to continue for only this match because of the previous commitments of the organizers and television carrier. Perasol has a point when he says, “I cannot keep playing with 10 men.”
That exposes the others to longer minutes and the risk of injury. Against La Salle, there were anxious moments when Chris Newsome and Golla looked hurt. The team needs to get healthy in time for the UAAP.
Personally, I feel bad that they pulled out of the tournament because they didn’t finish what they started and this could set a precedent where teams can just pull out for whatever reason. Furthermore there isn’t any sanction by the tournament organizers that happens to be one of the Blue Eagles’ sponsors.
Now the situation is unlike UE’s pullout of last year’s University Games after making the finals because they went abroad to play in another tournament (they didn’t expect to go that far). The Blue Eagles are hurting.
I understand why. I agree as well. I respect their decision. Look at it from this perspective. If they continued to play then who would they field for the UAAP that is the major objective? That is after all the MAJOR tournament. It is not like this is pre-meditated or a deliberate snub.
Maybe this is like a tennis player being unable to continue to play in a tournament because of an injury.
I just hope that there is a silver lining for all here.
But what a win, huh? Depleted an all.