This appears in the Monday, April 18, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.
Four things to take from Ateneo’s Final Four win over UP
by rick olivares
The Ateneo Lady Eagles are back in the UAAP Finals for the fifth straight year following a three-set sweep over UP in the Final Four. Am I surprised at how they did it? Not really. I was more shocked at how they responded to the loss to La Salle at the end of the first round with how they came out against UP to kick off the second round.
At that time, I questioned even the preparation of the coaching staff that I felt had gotten lax and too overconfident. The losses sure brought them back to earth and put a lot of things in perspective.
Having said that, here are my thoughts from the Ateneo-UP Final Four encounter.
The return of an old reliable — defense.
I think this year because Ateneo has had more more and reliable attacking options, it superseded their defense. Or even perceptions of their defense. It is justifiably so since the Lady Eagles were down in their receiving and digging.
However, even before the back-to-back losses that are since a distant memory, they were at 6-0. You don’t just go 6-0 without playing some defense. They were just conceding more points than they did last year.
In fact, their last two matches — against La Salle and UP — that ironically avenged their two mid-season losses in order showcased their floor and net defense of which they were superb the previous season.
The blocking show that was on display against UP was how they have played since Season 77.
There’s a difference between consistency and experience.
It is said that UP’s inexperience showed in the Final Four. That they are too young.
Agreed to an extent. I believe more appropriately, they were what they were all season long — inconsistent (save for Nicole Tiamzon who in my opinion is not only underrated but is one of the most efficient players in the league). Not to take away anything from the Lady Maroons, they are a much better team than the previous campaigns. They are an exciting squad loaded with wonderful talent and with so much promise. And for sure they will learn from this Final Four defeat.
To explain the inconsistency, UP finished 8-6; good for fourth. They finished 4-3 and 4-3 in the first and second rounds. In each round, they had that one huge win — NU in the first and Ateneo to start the second. There was that win over UST that preceded the NU win for a three-game stretch where people took even bigger notice that they were legitimate contenders. Having said that, were they consistent in their
However, they started the season poorly and towards the end of the second round, they had hit the wall and stopped playing well. Yes, there’s the big win over UST to close out the elimination round but the Golden Tigresses are vastly inconsistent.
Some point out that Ateneo has its championship experience to draw on. My response is they aren’t exactly a team loaded from top to bottom with seasoned vets.
Let’s break it down in terms of playing years (not academic years):
Valdez - 5th year
Ahomiro - 5th year
Maraguinot - 2nd year
Morado - 3rd year
Tan - 4th year
De Leon - 2nd year
Gequillana - 3rd year
Madayag - 2nd year
Gequillana got playing time during her first year in Season 76 but didn’t play much in her second year as her position was crowded by Michelle Morente and Maraguinot. Madayag got very little playing time during her freshman year while Gizelle Tan hardly hardly played all these years. Her V-League stint was the first ever meaningful time she’s played. So only five players had significant playing time last season and that’s Valdez, Ahomiro, De Leon, Morado, and Maraguinot.
And UP featured five players — Bersola, Tiamzon, Gaiser, Lai, and Buitre — who gained significant exposure in S77. All figured prominently in their campaign this season too.
Bersola - 4th year
Tiamzon - 4th year
Gaiser - 4th year
Lai - 2nd year
Molde - 1st year
Carlos - 1st year
Estrañero - 2nd year
Dorog - 1st year
Buitre - 2nd year
In Season 74, Ateneo finished second to La Salle with an 11-3 record. They shocked DLSU with a Game 1 win in the Finals before they lost the next three. Supposedly with that lineup, they gained experience, but in S75, they finished second at 10-4 and were bounced in the Finals two straight by La Salle with the second match, a three-set sweep.
By S76, they lost the core of that team — five players, four who were full-time starters. With a bunch of players who were either rookies (Morente and Morado) or didn’t play much (Ahomiro and Ella De Jesus), they won the championship. So it doesn’t follow that age = experience.
I prefer to believe that when you are consistent (in your recruiting, training, and performance) then you can push matters onto the next level. Take for example, La Salle. How many years running have they made the Final Four if not the Finals? If any team has been the model of consistency through the years it has been them.
And that leads to the next point.
The value of a good coach.
I think that what Anusorn Bundit has done for the Lady Eagles has been overlooked. It isn’t solely the training. It’s also the mental fortitude. A NU official told me the other day (during the DLSU-NU second round match), “Tai looked at the league and spat in their eye. Aside from the mental strength, he did something that is so basic and forced everyone else to follow — fitness and conditioning — now you have teams training twice a day and so on.”
You remember how Michael Jordan would say that the constant hard practices make the game easy? Said Bea De Leon, “The practices are so hard that we hate it. We feel more relaxed and would rather play two UAAP games in a day rather than practice."
On the other side, I think UP’s Jerry Yee is a refreshing change from the other coaches who always get mad and yell. He can be sarcastic but not in a rude way. If the moment wasn’t dire, I’d have a laugh. He uses that sarcasm in a calm manner to get his point across. Then in a few words says what needs to be done. His recruiting and training have been marvelous for State U. Expect more things from Yee and his girls.
The sindak factor.
During PBA matches, when the Star Hotshots (or whatever name they go by after each conference) would play, when star shooting guard James Yap makes these incredible shots where he’s falling or fading out bounds or when he has a hand right in his face I think it’s time to pack it in because no way are they going to lose.
You know that when Steph Curry is hitting long range bombs from beyond area code range then G-State will be tough to defeat.
Same with the Lady Eagles.
During the second set, there was that one-handed set by Jia Morado for a Bea De Leon quick strike for an Ateneo point. And that was followed by a broken play and a series of two free balls given by Ateneo where they converted both. The three points gave Ateneo a 20-13 lead (if I am not mistaken). It was definitely a wow moment and it spurred them on to take that second set. And then the third set.
Now they’re back in the Finals.