by rick olivares
With a minute and 58 seconds left in the first period, Charles Mammie botched a two-handed dunk that left the Mandaue Sports Complex chorusing in unison, “ooohhh.”
“Damn!” yelled the University of the East’s center from Sierra Leone.
“Forget about it, Charles,” intoned UE head coach Derrick Pumaren who waved his players to get back on defense. “It’s over. Get back and play defense.”
For the young UE Red Warriors, the game against the University of San Carlos Warriors at the Mandaue Sports Complex will eventually be forgotten. But for this college basketball season, the match will serve a larger purpose.
For much of the fourth period, Roi Sumang was on the bench (he was being conserved), Charles Mammie and Chris Javier were in foul trouble (they eventually fouled out one after the other), and Moustapha Arafat didn’t return for the entire second half after he pulled up lame.
When the fourth period started, the score stood at 69-45 for the Red Warriors. Pumaren started Mark Olayon who had his first taste of game action, young frontliners Doods Pillas and Zyron Cudal, Gino Jumao-as, and Sumang.
The immediately pressed and Jumao-as managed to poke the ball away from USC’s Glennson Ybanez. Jumao-as picked up the ball and threw a two-handed forward pass to a streaking Olayon.
Olayon who has blown hot and cold this pre-season corralled the ball, too a step then dribbled (he wasn’t called for traveling) then cradled the ball in one arm then rose up in the air. He tomahawked it home against two USC Warriors – center Espoir Toyambi and forward Ian Ortega who both elected not to attempt to block the shot.
UE’s bench rose in unison cheering. Pumaren pumped his fist. The Cebuano crowd applauded. “Damn,” yelled a buoyant Mammie who slapped hands with Olayon. “That was some dunk.”
The score stood at 71-45, a game high 26-point lead for UE.
Just when it seemed that the Warriors were headed for another blowout loss, they found a spark of life. Aided by a lack of an intimidating center inside for UE plus some questionable officiating, the once mighty lead quickly evaporated.
After Olayon’s moonwalk, Toyambi inspired a 12-1 run that cut the lead to 15, 72-57.
Jumao-as, who didn’t score but tallied two rebounds, five assists, and one block, found an wide open Dan Alberto who rifled home a triple to stop the bleeding.
But USC had one more run in them as this time, it was Shooster Olago who rose the crest of the wave. At the 3:48 mark, Olago finished off his own death-defying dunk after UE’s Bong Galanza turned the ball over. Olago’s stuff wasn’t counted because of an earlier foul. But after Dan Alberto telegraphed a pass that Olago intercepted, he was cleared for take off. His massive jam pegged the score at 75-66 and got the whole arena rocking for the home team that had taken it on the chin all game long.
UE called time and Moustapha Arafat, unable to help his team because of a minor injury, seethed and gave Olago dagger looks. But he never went back in as Pumaren kept an unusual five of Sumang, Paul Varilla (who has been starting of late), Cudal, Daryll Guiang, and Jumao-as on the floor. “I will need other to step up during the UAAP season,” later explained Pumaren. “There will be games where my starters will be in foul trouble or unavailable. This is a good way to test my young players.”
After Olago’s slam, UE would score only one more point (they finished with a measly seven points in the fourth period). The power outage was shocking to say the least. But a win is a win as they say. The Red Warriors beat the Warriors, 76-68, for their second consecutive win in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup to go to 2-2. USC, already out of the running for a quarterfinals berth in the competition, dropped to 1-4.
The Red Warriors are still learning to play together after being under Pumaren for only a month and a half. Last season, their battle cry after breaking a huddle was, “Warrior ako!”
This year, it’s “Defense!”
In the press conference at the Sarrosa International Hotel in front of the Cebu media, Pumaren emphasized just that, “I am a defensive coach.”
And these Red Warriors look promising on defense. They harassed USC into 26 turnovers that translated into 22 turnover points.
However, the game is played on both sides of the court, and throughout the match, Pumaren and younger brother, Dindo, who once was UE’s head coach and is now an assistant, harped on proper positioning and decision-making.
After forcing a turnover, three Red Warriors were bunched together on the break. “Stay wide!” barked Dindo. Varilla drifted to the right while Chris Javier went left. Galanza, who was bringing up the ball surveyed his options. He fed Javier on the left and the fourth year UE forward-center spun around Toyambi for a deuce to make it 11-5 in the first period.
After Olayon’s slam, Cudal was fouled underneath the UE basket on a follow up, Dindo quipped out loud, “Akala ko ida-dunk mo.” That had the bench in stitches.
But the laughter was soon replaced by concern because of USC’s searing rally. The Warriors however, also shot themselves in the foot by missing five free throws in the final period and six in the third for a total of 25 missed free throw attempts (they were awarded 55 attempts). And UE survived despite their paltry seven final period points (to the 23 of USC) for a 76-68 victory.”
“I really have to give credit to my players because they played very well on defense,” said Derrick Pumaren after the match. “It’s unfortunate to see that good game be taken away by the rough play that saw several of my players get injured. But we’re getting there. Hopefully, we will continue to play well.”
UE 76 – Galanza 19, Sumang 11, Alberto 9, Arafat 8, Javier 6, De Leon 6, Varilla 4, Mammie 4, Guiang 2, Olayon 2, Palma 2, Caparida 2, Cudal 1, Jumao-as 0, Pillas 0.
USC 68 – Shooster 27, Toyambi 12, Ortega 11, Magat 10, Ybanez 3, Adlawan 3, Egna 2, Rabat 0, Lim 0, Laguyo 0, Bensig 0, Trozo 0.