by rick olivares
The season for the Ateneo Blue Eagles has generally followed this plot: injuries-start poor-drop the third quarter-rally-rally falls short. The boys in blue and white finally reversed that with the win against Adamson.
Unfortunately, the game against the equally struggling UE Red Warriors followed the same thread. Ateneo wasn’t playing well but they hung in there as the lead wasn’t that big. Then the Red Warriors took a 16-point lead in the third period. The Blue Eagles lost a player (Ryan Buenafe to a bad landing with Gboy Babilonia lost for the season) and UE was primed to blow the game wide open when Juami Tiongson ignited a comeback that knotted the count at 54-all with 10 minutes to play.
There was a ray of hope after Ateneo built a late three-point lead in the fourth period. Frank Golla hits a huge jumper after airballing the previous two. Then came some miscues that hurt. And the result, a 72-68 loss, is a painful one because it drops the team to 1-4 with two to play in the first round and no guarantees of winning them.
In the simplest of terms, you can say that:
1) Charles Mammie killed us with 20 points and 23 rebounds with 12 of those coming off the offensive glass.
Ateneo is the second worst rebounding team in the UAAP now averaging 42.6; a shade over last placer UP. Conversely, Ateneo surrenders 47.0 rebounds.
Those five rebounds could spell the difference.
Let’s explore that:
NU defeated Ateneo 64-54
FEU defeated Ateneo 79-75
La Salle defeated Ateneo 82-73
Ateneo defeated Adamson 71-59
UE defeated Ateneo 72-68
Ateneo averages 68.2 points and concedes 71.2. The difference is a mere three (3) points.
Again… as difficult and ugly as it has been, the Blue Eagles have put themselves in a position to win all their matches. There are missing elements: Kiefer Ravena’s usual self, the scoring from the bigs, Von Pessumal getting his points, and last night Ryan Buenafe’s regular contributions. There are bits and pieces of everything that contribute to a win and a loss. Rebounding is as good a place as any to start (I hear some digressing, “health”) but more on that later.
2) This was like the FEU game where the end game miscues hurt. There was Juami Tiongson’s last and disqualifying foul (he was in the midst of an incandescent shooting game) after the Blue Eagles were trying to get back JM Noble’s shockingly uncontested layup that swung the lead back to UE, 68-67. That aforementioned lay-up was due to a defensive lapse that allowed that layup. And certainly, we missed Tiongson for any offensive option as he was not on the floor anymore.
3) Ateneo attempted a measly six free throw attempts. The Blue Eagles have shot the third fewest number of free throws with only 79 (UP has 75 attempts while UE has 59). I won’t even bother to compare that with the Season 75 numbers. The upside with that number is Ateneo is shooting 74% from the 15-footline putting them second best in that category.
The last time an Ateneo team shot that few number of FTs was last September 13, 2012 against NU. It was a 70-56 win yet the Blue Eagles had only two free throw attempts (by Kiefer Ravena)! And only one was made. Incredible. I have no idea how few calls are made when there are a lot of scrambles inside.
4) We missed Ryan Buenafe’s brilliance. He played 12 minutes. But after spraining his ankle on a bad landing, he was gimpy. Kiefer Ravena, still not 100%, picked up the slack. But there you have it Coach Bo Perasol missed Ryan’s production. The Blue Eagles simply have not been complete.
Think of this -- Chris Newsome, Juami Tiongson, and Ryan Buenafe are averaging double digits in scoring with 14.6, 13.2 and 13.0 respectively. If Von Pessumal (currently at 6.6 points per game) and Kiefer Ravena (5.7) picks it up then we’ll be the ones spreading it out.
In the last game against Adamson, pretty much every one was firing on all cylinders. Coach Bo Perasol made nice “bunots” in this game. Fran Asuncion was not bad in his few minutes. Von Pessumal got the team back in the game (12 points) as did Juami Tiongson (17 points including five of seven treys). But we missed the lack of production from the bigs (Frank Golla and JP Erram combined for seven points and 11 boards) in foul trouble.
Let’s try to break it down further.
In defending UE, Ateneo threw four defenders at Roi Sumang – Nico Elorde, Chris Newsome, Kiefer Ravena, and Von Pessumal.
Boycie Zamar knew that Ateneo would put Chris Newsome on Roi Sumang and that Charles Mammie would be double-teamed.
And here’s how they dealt with that.
Roi Sumang was to play as a decoy and draw Newsome out. He’d facilitate and find players like Ralf Olivares, Lord Casajeros, and surprise package Dan Alberto. Once the others were able to spread the floor, Sumang would strike. And he did so in the second half.
With Sumang not talking too many shots (he was 3-6 in the first half with two assists and zero turnovers), Dan Alberto had 10 huge points including two from long distance.
Sumang shot 6-19, as the second half defense on him was suffocating. But he hit the shots he needed to. In the crunch.
After Tiongson was called for his fifth foul, Sumang drove hard and scored on a lay-up for a 70-67 lead. He missed a jumper after that but Mammie hit his free throws (he was 4-8 before his final free throws with 17 seconds left) when he needed to. And those were the marginal points at 72-68.
As for Mammie, they didn’t worry about the double team because UE hardly calls plays for the Sierra Leone native. He’s a clean up guy who will find his own points.
For the first time this season and or since Mammie suited up for UE in the summer league, he started with Chris Javier relegated to bench duty. Zamar wanted to immediately wreak havoc on Ateneo’s defensive rotations. That was provided of course that the wing players would make their shots.
You can infer from this that as crucial as Roi Sumang is to UE, Charles Mammie playing well gives them a chance to win.
I know it’s a different team but last season, the Blue Eagles averaged 20.4 points a game from the perimeter as opposed to 37.0 points in the paint.
This year, it’s 30.0 points from the perimeter and 26.4 inside the shaded area.
I recall in the past two years how Ateneo would get a lot of points inside and free throw attempts but you got a lot of that because of Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, and Justin Chua as well as with Kiefer Ravena and Kirk Long attacking the basket.
To sum it all up, Ateneo has not gotten into a groove with anything and that is why the team is struggling. It's both good and bad but you are not sure where the points are coming from.
I know the team is 1-4 but increasingly, I am looking to the break between the two rounds because of the FIBA Asia tournament. Those 11 days will be enough time for all the injuries to heal and for the team to finally get used to playing together.
Here’s to the next game… against the UP Fighting Maroons.