This appears in the Monday, November 18, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror
by rick olivares
The game is not for the championship. But if you were there you’d swear it could have been one. A coach and a fan went after the referee. The other coach did his best Jerry Tarkanian impression by waving a towel and punching his fists in the air in an unbridled show of emotion.
Fans and players of other teams packed the small and humid San Beda Gym to watch an intense and thrilling match between National University-C and Reedley International School in the 31st Metro Manila Basketball League, last Sunday, November 17.
Despite the presence of Reedley’s Twin Towers combination of RP Youth teamer Jay Javelosa and Senegalese center Karbala Gueye, the Bullpups figured out the Reedley Silverbacks’ weakness – the backcourt.
They hounded the Reedley guards and converted their turnovers into fastbreak buckets. Even if it was early in the match, the Bullpups looked like they were going to coast to an easy win when they posted an 18-6 lead with 2:37 left in the first period.
It wasn’t too long ago that National University was the whipping boy of almost every collegiate team. Not anymore. They have a program to go with top notch coaching and big time recruiting. In fact, in the high school basketball, they can field up to four stacked and loaded teams! That is how far they’ve come.
This Reedley team on the other hand was formed only a couple of years ago. Javelosa, the former Ateneo Blue Eaglet, has been their star. The addition of Karbala, who hopes to play for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in a couple of years, has increased the awareness and attention to this team.
The two teams headed to their Sunday match-up via contrasting wins. NU bounced College of Benilde Integrated School (CBIS) 89-60. Reedley likewise played CBIS and had to survive the hot shooting of pint-sized point guard James Guerrero who hit six triples including one over the outstretched hands of Karbala. The Silverbacks had a chance to win it in regulation but Karbala took too long in giving the outlet pass to Javelosa. By the time he whirled into shooting position, the buzzer had sounded.
In overtime, Karbala hit a huge hook shot over two Bullpups while Javelosa and swingman Patrick Levy split their charities for the marginal score. CBIS had a chance to send the game into a second extension period but Javelosa swatted away a baseline shot by a Bullpup as the buzzer sounded for a 80-78 win.
After a week’s worth of matches, the MMBL, the third oldest high school basketball league in the country after the NCAA and the UAAP, has seen mostly routs and colossal mismatches. Reedley’s two matches have been edge-of-your-seat thrillers. The kind that puts people in the seats (even if entrance is for free).
With Reedley unable to set up their offense, the reins were handed over to Javelosa. As a youngster in the Ateneo Grade School, he played the point guard spot even if he was the tallest player on the team. By the time he got to high school playing alongside resident Eaglet stars Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal, and Paolo Romero, he was tasked to man the slot something also asked of him with the RP Youth Team.
Now able to break the press, the Silverbacks began their comeback with Karbala stringing up five straight points on an and-one and a silky smooth jumper that ripped the cords. He also assisted on a layup by Levy to end the quarter 18-12.
The battle had been rejoined.
In the second period, Javelosa and Karbala combined to assault NU from both inside and out. Now playing the perimeter, Javelosa showed off his marksmanship from three-point range by drilling back-to-back shots from both sides of the arc. The duo scored all 22 of Reedley’s second period points to take a 34-30 lead at the half.
The respite helped NU as they came out of the third by forcing Javelosa to pick up his dribble and give up the ball. With their teammates unable to field the passes, that forced Gueye out higher to receive the ball and help break the trap. However that allowed NU’s bigs to take care of Reedley’s smaller players who muffed layups and jumpers taken under duress. The Bullpups retook the lead, 50-46, after three.
In the fourth period, Reedley’s outside shooting began to find the mark with Tuason and Karbala hitting some jumpers. while Javelosa began to attack the inside. The Silverbacks overhauled the deficit and sent their supporters into a frenzy. In the last two minutes of play, a traveling violation called on a NU player. Their coaching staff went ballistic but their protests went nowhere. While Reedley was unable to score on the opposite end, it did trim some precious seconds off the game clock.
Defensively, Reedley clamped down on the outside shooters forcing them to dump the ball inside to their big men. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get any shots off against the Silverbacks’ Twin Towers.
Reedley proved steadier in the clutch to prevail. When Karbala hit that huge hook shot, the gym erupted that it was for the championship. Reedley’s head coach waved his towel up in the air and chest bumped his players. And as the final buzzer sounded, Gueye, who scored 24 points to pace Reedley followed by Javelosa's 17, let out a yell of triumph that resounded throughout the gym.
The Reedley Silverbacks had played two big games in 24 hours. They weren’t pretty but in the scheme of things, they’re good for their squad as they learn to play together while growing into the game.
“It’s a good weekend,” said Gueye after the game. “It’s going to be a good start to the week in school on Monday. Everybody will be smiling.”
Expect their games next weekend to be packed once more.