|In this photo, Eric Altamirano, Joey Guanio and some of the NU management smirk at Charles Mammie (who is off cam) who was glaring at Alfred Aroga who is stewing in his seat next to Jeff Napa. I missed taking the shot where Mammie went up close to Alfred that had the NU coaching staff shaking their heads. Mindgames. Said Aroga to me after that, "He does not affect me at all."|
This appears in the Monday September 22, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
Aroga repays Mammie and UE in spades as NU marches on to the Final Four
by rick olivares
Alfred Aroga was waiting for this moment. It took more than a year but in the end his two free throws sank the UE Red Warriors, 51-49, while his NU Bulldogs sailed through dire straits and into the Final Four.
UE center Charles Mammie had been more than a thorn on his side. During the 2013 Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup Finals, Mammie destroyed both Aroga and Emmanuel Mbe snapping a 21-game winning streak. In the lead up to the Filoil Finals, Mammie sent a message by writing Aroga’s name on his shoes as his next victim.
Aroga, who is from Cameroon, decried the scare tactics before the game. “He (Mammie) wants to intimidate you. Is that voodoo (referring to writing the names of his “victims” on his shoes that summer)? I am not afraid.”
The two renewed their rivalry this Season 77 with NU taking the first round match, 57-55, as Aroga dominated UE while Mammie ended up with a big fat egg across his name.
In their second round return bout, Mammie this time towed a Roi Sumang-less UE by scoring 22 points to crush the Bulldogs, 64-55 (Alfred finished with three points).
As UE finished the second round with a 6-1 record, they were feeling confident of their chances.
Maybe a little too overconfident as Mammie started down Aroga who was seated on NU’s bench during the warm-ups.
NU head coach Eric Altamirano smirked. Aroga steamed but kept a lid on his emotions. Altamirano’s wife, Marissa walked over to Aroga and told him to ignore Mammie while giving him some encouragement. NU’s African player nodded.
When the game started, it looked like Mammie would have his way with Aroga and NU again as he scored six consecutive points while suckering the Cameroonian into two fouls.
Just as UE opened up a 9-0 lead, NU regrouped and went on their own 11-point spurt to take the lead. One they would not surrender for the rest of the game.
As UE struggled to get the ball to Mammie (who was double and triple teamed), the Red Warriors disintegrated into a maze of turnovers. However, the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize as they too coughed up the ball one too many times (they finished with 35 turnovers to UE’s 27).
Towards the end of the game, it looked like UE was on the road to destruction as NU posted a seven-point lead, 49-42, after an Aroga bucket with 3:15 to play.
Sumang towed UE to within a point, 49-48 after a reverse lay-up and a booming triple with 1:15 left to play. They failed to convert following three consecutive NU turnovers.
Forward-center Chris Javier split his free throws to notch the count at 49-all with 36 seconds to play.
UE forced a stop but Paul Varilla traveled after corralling the defensive rebound to give NU back the ball with 13 seconds left in the game.
With 11 seconds left, NU back up point guard Paolo Javellona found Aroga underneath the basket who was fouled by Mammie.
Aroga calmly deposited both shots for the marginal points for what would be his sixth and seventh points of the match. Alfred also pulled down eight boards while adding an assist, steal, and two blocks including one against the Sierra Leone native.
UE had a chance to win it at the buzzer but Bong Galanza’s trey attempt was long.
As the NU gallery celebrated, Aroga ran towards the bench and hugged Altamirano for what seemed to be an eternity.
Mammie shook his head in disbelief. After his first quarter success against Aroga and NU, he scored a mere two points the rest of the way. He did pull down a game high 14 rebounds in addition to serving up two assists and recording a steal. His two misses from the line were crucial but that can sort of be expected as he is a 41% free throw shooter while Aroga knocks down 56% of his 15-foot line attempts.
Following the post-match shaking of hands, the two combatants exchanged a handshake but neither looked the other in the eye.
Inside the joyous NU locker room, Aroga huddled with Issa Seny Diouf Gaye, the Ghanaian center who will suit up next season as Henri Betayene is done with his playing years. “I had enough of him,” he said referring to Mammie. “He’s been bullying me since last year. All he does is talk trash and hit me. I just keep quiet and try to work on my focus. Hitting those two free throws was my way of getting back. The Filoil loss was painful but in the UAAP, I think the pain of losing is more. I am moving on. He is not.”
After letting loose all his frustrations, Aroga sat in his cubicle to think.
“Still thinking of him,” asked teammate Issa.
“No,” smiled Aroga. “I’m wondering what to eat.”