Blitzed & blindsided
Ateneo defeats FEU to go to 6-4.
by rick olivares pic by raddy mabasa
I was waiting for this storm to arrive.
Wednesday could not come soon enough. You can bet that the Ateneo Blue Eagles looked forward to the rematch with the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. Dealt with a bad hand in the first round encounter, they nearly won. Had Roger Pogoy not snatched that rebound away from Ryan Buenafe and had there been no end game unforced turnover that would have been a W.
Someone asked me why I have so much faith in the team.
I’ll tell you why.
When this team (I am referring to the remnants of the five-peat squad) was put together, they were supposedly one of the best in their positions at that time. They were carefully selected not just for skill but their game intelligence. But they were all winners in their own right having won during their younger years.
They know what it takes to win and it shows during games.
You think they are done with winning championships? Not at all. You have to know what drives them. There’s a responsibility when you wear that blue and white. “One Big Fight” isn’t just a cheer. It’s a creed. You simply give it your best win or lose. And the challenges of the early season – the injuries and the losses – only further served to whet that appetite.
With all due respect to our friends from the University of the East, I’ll recount a story that Boycie Zamar loves to tell and remind people. They (the Red Warriors) are losers. They have not really won anything. They’ve been bottom feeders for years now. When Adrian Santos committed that huge inbound turnover, you have to remember that it is only under Boycie Zamar that he has seen extensive playing time. He is not used to the end game.
The Red Warriors are learning what they can do on the job.
The Blue Eagles in the meantime have been the class of college basketball in the past five years. Their winning mentality is a huge, nay, massive plus.
Furthermore, the Blue Eagles know that they are slowly finding their form. They dispatched UP and Adamson twice doing what they needed to do. They had taken down UST. Now to validate their title aspirations, Ateneo has to defeat the upper tier clubs.
Hence, FEU was in the eye of the perfect storm.
The Tamaraws were tired from the double overtime match against UE the other day. But as I spoke to some of the coaches after the game, they do not use this as an excuse and I respect them even more for saying that.
There’s a thought that FEU might have peaked too early while Ateneo was on its way up. Heading into this Wednesday tussle, the Tamaraws were 1-2 in the second round. They stopped a two-game slide. That win was huge because it did much to restore their confidence and put them back on the winning track. Only they ran smack into a well-motivated Ateneo team (the Blue Eagles also wanted to win this for head coach Bo Perasol who was recently operated on to have some kidney stones removed).
Let’s go back into history all the way back to Season 73….
Remember that year, the Tamaraws of RR Garcia, Terrence Romeo, Aldrech Ramos, Reil Cervantes, Paul Sanga, Ric Cawaling, Mark Bringas, Pippo Noundou, Ping Exciminiano, Gryann Mendoza, and Carl Cruz ran roughshod over Ateneo in the two elimination round games. Come the Finals, they were defeated handily by an Ateneo team that had turned the Final Four and Finals into their own personal showcase. Those years of losing in the Final Four, those cliffhangers and cardiac games, and the mental fortitude of the players would galvanize them come win-or-go-home time.
You all remember Game One when the Tams got run off the floor from tip off to the final buzzer. The final score was 72-49. In Game Two, Ryan Buenafe drained the game winner trey that sealed the three-peat.
Since RR Garcia donned the green and gold of FEU, his Tamaraws are 3-10 to Ateneo.
Terrence Romeo who is averaging 20.8 points against the league before the Wednesday match up has averaged a measly 11.3 against Ateneo. Sure he scored 19 points to lead his team but he scored 14 of them in garbage time.
And as it has been for the past six or seven years, Ateneo took the fight to FEU.
The first minute alone, where Ateneo scored six points to the two of FEU reveals not only the game plan to attack the weak interior but also to move the ball around.
FEU scored within five seconds after Garcia received the opening tip from Anthony Hargrove. Ateneo passed the ball around then Chris Newsome found a wide-open Kiefer Ravena for a trey.
Thirty seconds later, at the exact moment Frank Golla slid in the lane, Ryan Buenafe, who pulled down an offensive rebound had the ball going his way for an and-one on Carl Cruz.
Note that Ateneo moved the ball around until they found the open man. And players moved into positions on the floor where they could score easy baskets.
The assist total was 21 to the 10 of FEU.
Assists. That really says a lot about Ateneo – they play unselfish basketball. Here’s a look at the assists total of both teams and how they finished in the past four years.
In four of the five championship years of Ateneo, they led the league in assists. NU won that category last season. If you noticed Ateneo is tied with FEU for first in S76 but have different totals. That's because FEU has played one more game than the Blue Eagles.
The Blue Eagles played a match reminiscent of that Season 73 Finals Game One where they blitzed and blindsided FEU for a 92-73 win. They never stepped off the gas pedal.
There were two crucial moments when FEU seemed on the verge of making a run. But each time, the Blue Eagles responded magnificently.
Ateneo went into the halftime break up 51-28. When the third period started, Chris Newsome hit an open left baseline jumper off an assist by Frank Golla.
FEU hit two consecutive triples but the Blue Eagles matched them each time with a jumper of their own. Ateneo had taken the crucial third quarter and led 73-45 going into the final frame.
The Tamaraws threw a 2-3 zone at the Blue Eagles but they solved it within a few minutes as they whipped the ball around and attacked inside once more forcing FEU to scramble on their rotations.
There was a déjà vu moment (reminiscent of the last game against Adamson when with about over eight minutes to go, the coach went to the bench and the Falcons quickly cut into the deficit) to start the fourth when Bo Perasol started the fourth period with Ivan Enriquez, Nico Elorde, Von Pessumal, Gwyne Capacio, and Vince Tolentino.
FEU quickly scored five points and Perasol sought not to take any chances and sent back his starters. Fire extinguished.
This sixth win of the season was achieved because of a relentless attack inside (36 points in the paint; FEU scored 32 but a lot of that was in the final period at garbage time).
The Blue Eagles hauled down 58 rebounds with 14 on the offensive end. That translated into 10 second chance points.
Ateneo was also hellacious in their defense. It seemed that FEU had very few uncontested shots. And this has much to do with the perimeter players doing their part to prevent those shots.
The final result was a big win (their fifth straight) that vaulted Ateneo into the upper half of the standings while FEU lost their third match in their last four outings (to stay half a game ahead of NU).
The drive for six is alive.
Ateneo 92 - Tiongson 20, Ravena 18, Newsome 11, Buenafe 9, Tolentino 9, Golla 9, Pessumal 5, Elorde 5, Capacio 4, Erram 2, Murphy 0, Enriquez 0, Asuncion 0, Asistio 0
FEU 73 - Romeo 19, Garcia 11, Tolomia 9, Pogoy 9, Hargrove 6, Belo 6, Jose 5, Iñigo 3, Cruz 3, Lee Yu 2, Sentcheu 0, Mendoza 0, Luz 0, Dennison 0, Delfinado 0, Aguilon 0.
On the FEU side, there was no long talk after the match. Very business-like, they are looking ahead to the next game. Even if they have lost three of their last four, they are not pressing the panic button.
However they have to be concerned. They need to get that winning groove back. Before the end of the first round, I really felt that the two week break might hurt them because it could dull their momentum. Of course, they are not convinced of anything yet as they've fallen apart before. But it isn't too late yet. Only this Sunday, they play the dangerous UST Growling Tigers.