A glorious or tragic end to an era
FEU vs. Ateneo
by rick olivares
When second seed Far Eastern University and third seed Ateneo de Manila University clash on Saturday, it will be for the right to go to the Finals and close out a glorious chapter in its current team’s history.
FEU, the top scoring team this season with 74.7 points per game, is the prohibitive favorite to send Ateneo packing and to end the Blue Eages’ tenure of Bo Perasol, Kiefer Ravena, and Von Pessumal on a sour note. You can say that they wanted this match up simply because they have defeated Ateneo twice in the elimination round.
They want to win as well because this is the last hurrah for many of its veterans — Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, and Francis Tamsi. Russel Escoto go opt to leave as well but because he missed out a year he might come back. But that means he will be in his seventh year in college. Not sure if he will want that. Both Russel and Mike sat out their freshman years while serving a tour of duty on the RP Youth Team. They came back in time to join a FEU team that was destroyed in the Finals by Ateneo (Season 74).
So Tolomia and company know all about heartache as they have fallen twice now in the finals (the other was to NU last season). It has been a 10-year title drought for FEU; the last was in 2005 when Arwind Santos, Mark Isip, and Denok Miranda led them to the UAAP’s basketball summit.
For Ateneo that is in the middle of most statistical categories, now is the time to raise the level of their game. Furthermore, Ravena, Pessumal, and Gwyne Capacio are the last links to its recent championship glory. They would love nothing more than to crown their college careers with one last title.
The last time Ateneo and FEU clashed in the Final Four was in Season 63 when the Blue Eagles had a twice-to-beat advantage over the Tamaraws (featuring Celino Cruz, Edwin Bacani, Leo Avenido, and Miko Roldan). The Blue Eagles defeated FEU twice in the elimination round and it looked like they would walk all over the Tams to enter the Finals in Joe Lipa’s second year at the helm.
But Andrew Cruz missed two free throws that would have given Ateneo a three-point lead with seconds left. What ensued was an improbable Miko Roldan jumper at the buzzer that crushed Atenean hearts everywhere for a 61-60 win. Then in Game Two, buoyed by the win, Cruz and Bacani combined for 39 points to crush Ateneo for the king-sized upset.
Can Ateneo return the favor or can FEU continue its mastery against its Katipunan-based foe?
For FEU to win they will need to do several things:
Own the boards. In their two elimination round victories, they won the battle of the rebounds.
They will need to move that ball around and get a lot of their players involved in the offense. In those two games, they had more assists than Ateneo and at least three players in double digits (their opening day win against the Blue Eagles saw four players score at least 10 points). In fact, their bench scores the most in the league with 37.4 points a match to Ateneo’s 29.7.
They will need to shut down Von Pessumal. Twice now they kept him below 10 points. In the last outing, Roger Pogoy blocked Pessumal’s first two attempts and later rejected a third shot. That left Kiefer Ravena trying to win the game by his lonesome. Ravena did get some help from Adrian Wong but Ateneo needs more options. Sometimes, it is so obvious what they want to do and they waste so much time trying to get someone untracked (fighting through screens) that they take a lot of jumpers under duress.
For Ateneo to win, they will need to do several things:
Stop taking freaking jumpers and attack that basket. If the others keep chucking up shots, they should just give the ball to Aaron Black who likes to drive to the hoop.
They will need Chib Ikeh to play solid basketball where he doesn’t fall for ball fakes and where he dunks the ball instead of throwing up soft shots.
They need to get some scoring inside not just from Ikeh but also from Ponso Gotladera, GBoy Babilonia, and Isaac Go.
If Arvin Tolentino can show up that would be huge.
And lastly, not collapse in the fourth period (in addition to playing defense not in stretches but for the entire game).
Prior to its loss to UE in the last game of the second round, Ateneo was on a roll while FEU was floundering taking losses to UST and NU and they flirted with disaster (whether it was done on purpose or not) with La Salle before they pulled off a win no thanks to the Green Archers’ inability to put the ball in the hoop).
Right now, FEU has the experience and the stats stacked in their favor. But that isn’t always the case in determining who moves on. The outcome will also depend on coaching and adjustments. And how many players show up for this big game.