I can accept this loss…
FEU defeats Ateneo 79-75
Bakit? Hindi pa naman tapos yung season.
by rick olivares
The Ateneo Blue Eagles just won a historic championship. Although they had lost their prized center and some key players, they knew they had a chance to win another one with their holdovers.
However, they began the season 0-2.
After the loss to FEU, the locker room was like a morgue. The head coach stood in front of the team and spoke. “Now is not the time to press the panic button,” emphasized the coach. “Bakit? Hindi pa naman tapos yung season. It just started.”
The assistant coach, Sandy Arespacochaga would later add, “We saw their best games. Tayo wala pa. Kalma lang. Relax.”
That was in 2003.
That year, the Blue Eagles won the school’s third UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship. But they had lost Enrico Villanueva, back-up center Sonny Tadeo, point guard Epok Quimpo, and swingman Andrew Cruz.
The coach then was Joel Banal. And they lost by one point to UE on opening day and several points to FEU.
Fast forward 10 years later to 2013 and there are some similarities.
“We played the two teams who were seeded to make it to the Final Four,” Arespacochaga recalled of 2003. “It was a good gauge for us and we saw that it was possible for us to enter the Final Four. It’s almost the same scenario today in 2013.”
We all know that Ateneo lost Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, Justin Chua, Oping Sumalinog, and Tonino Gonzaga after the historic fifth championship. It sure hasn’t helped that many players are coming off lengthy injuries and that King Eagle Kiefer Ravena is hurting.
This team never played with a complete lineup all summer long. Many players were missing because of the injury bug.
But that is hardly an excuse.
After the opening day debacle against National University, one of the top seeded teams to win it all this year, the Blue Eagles nearly upended the FEU Tamaraws only to fall 79-75 in overtime and go down 0-2.
But I can accept this loss because…
The boys gave it that good old One Big Fight.
After losing so much they brought out their championship poise and heart to nearly pip FEU. You could see those guys wondering what it would take to put the blue and white away.
At one point in overtime, Terrence Romeo hit a shot in the lane against Chris Newsome (he only made two shots versus New all game long) and the lead was 73-67 with 2:32 to play. It would have been easy to collapse right there but no. The Ryan Buenafe hit two free throws and scored inside. Juami Tiongson coolly hit the bottom of the net on two free throws and just like that the game was tied.
After a missed shot by Romeo, the Blue Eagles had an excellent chance to seize the lead. Buenafe corralled the defensive board only to have Roger Pogoy rip it away and score underneath. Romeo then hit four free throws including two after a turnover by Nico Elorde that sealed the 79-75 win (Gwyne Capacio hit two free throws for Ateneo’s final points) for FEU.
Prior to the overtime comeback, Ateneo also rallied from an 11-point deficit at the start of the fourth period to take the win.
Unlike the opening game debacle against National University, the Blue Eagles, now coming to grips that they could be without Kiefer Ravena for at least one more week, played much better.
They trotted out vestiges of their old defensive heart.
We outrebounded the Tamaraws 51-47 (15-10 off the offensive glass) and had one fewer turnover, 12 to the 13 of FEU (three in the final minute of overtime that killed any chance of pulling out a win). They played good defense. We continue to shoot poorly but there’s that sign at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center that should remind them all of what got them to this point – ‘defense wins championships’.
Chris Newsome was awesome once more. He played 38 minutes. Longer than anyone player on either Ateneo or FEU. New scored 17 points, pulled down seven boards, and dished off three assists. By my unofficial count, he locked down Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia. Romeo managed only two successful shots against him. He plays both ends of the court and like Kirk Long and Rich Alvarez before him, he represents the grittiness that makes for champion teams.
Bo Perasol made his presence felt.
I know after the opening loss to NU, he took some flak for mostly sitting down and letting Sandy Arespacochaga stand up most of the time. I do not want to second guess the coach because for one, I have not spoken to him about it and furthermore, I was not on the bench. I can only surmise. Having said that, this is way too early.
Everyone doubted Joel Banal early on. Ditto with Norman Black. So as Sandy said in 2003 and as Kiefer Ravena said in 2013, ‘relak.’
I am happy that he stood out there and led this team. He doesn’t have a full deck but he was showing leadership. And I can appreciate that. And furthermore, he has my FULL SUPPORT.
When Joe Lipa raised his fist to join the singing of the alma mater after his first game as Ateneo coach, some fucking idiot said he should not do that because he never went to Loyola. Whether it is Joe, Joel, Norman, Jamike, or Bo, he is the coach of the Ateneo and as long as you represent the school, you have every right.
Ryan Buenafe finally stood up.
I feel sad that he is never anointed as ‘The Man’. He bounced back from the loss to NU to lead the team with an incredible stat line – 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 assists versus ONE TURNOVER.
That is a great stat line.
You could see that the lift isn’t there (because he looks so darn heavy). The hang time isn’t there. His first step is… well… one second too long. But his dangerous mind is still there.
That was once incredible pass to New (that he didn’t convert but he made good on for two free throws). Ryan should have been given an assist for that after all New made both freebies.
With Chris busy trying to stop the opposing team’s best offensive threat, Ryan took charge on offense.
The blue and white gallery came out to cheer
Against NU, the crowd was mostly passive. They only got up when Nico Elorde got bloodied and when the Blue Eagles embarked on a late game rally.
This time around, on a rainy Wednesday, in a venue kinda far from our usual haunts, they came. They cheered and they applauded.
After the loss, right before the singing of the alma mater song, the crowd along with the FEU team and gallery applauded. For the second straight game, that brought tears to my eyes. That One Big Fight is all you ever ask for and there’s the respect of your opponents.
As FEU Coach Nash Racela (an Atenean himself) made his way out of the press room, he said to me, “Ganda na ipinakita ng Ateneo. It makes me proud to be a part of that game. Win or lose.”
On the other hand, there is one thing that I need to mention. That the bigs have to step up. They are crucial to the any chance of making it to the Final Four.
I feel bad that Frank Golla seems to have regressed in the space of two terrible outings. He picked up from where he left off during the Season 75 Finals to a fantastic in the pre-season. But he’s been a no-show and is clearly lacking confidence. He came in and immediately turned the ball over on consecutive possessions. He’s upset at himself for that.
I know his teammates and the coaching staff are helping him gain that back. And it is our job as well to give him that boost in the arena. This is the time to pull together and not pull apart. One good game and he’ll be terrific.
The same goes for JP Erram. He showed more effort in the FEU match but sometimes I get the feeling that he has all these mental concerns because of his injury.
Here’s to them gaining that confidence (and to Kiefer Ravena’s health) because La Salle is on deck.
Yes, we are 0-2, but I think of Joel Banal’s words back from 2003. The season is far from done.