Sports

Longest 9.3 seconds Of My Life

My Picture With Kiefer

My Picture With Kiefer

Let’s set something straight. I missed the Ateneo-NU “do-or-die” game. I was checked in the Pal airport terminal awaiting my flight to Bacolod. The television monitors at the gates were showing something else while the sole TV in the lounge was out of order. Good thing my friends were updating me thru Viber and some kind lady was updating those who couldn’t watch in Atenista Ako FB page.

Instead of getting quarter by quarter scores, I was receiving play-by-play analyses. No one seems to be in the mood to work! What’s more, they were worried about the dark, heavy, gloomy clouds outside was troubling. It was signaling a heavy downpour!

My flight was delayed but what’s new with PAL? At least I can finish the game while still on the ground in Manila. First, second and third quarters pass. Ateneo was down but caught up. Come fourth quarter, it was time to board. As I walk towards the gate, I continued to get updates. As I show my boarding pass and walk thru the tunnel, it was a nip-and-tuck game. I took my seat and the doors closed and it was a deadlocked game! Still I kept my phone on but in silent mode to get the updates. As we began to taxi down the runway, the game clock was at 9.3 seconds with the NU ahead by 2 points. 9.3 seconds! You could hold your breath in 9.3 seconds!

And then the game was delayed due to lighting malfunction. Bitin! WTF?!

Throughout the flight I was thinking of positive scenarios although I knew that the situation was precarious. Maybe Ateneo scored 2 points to send game into overtime? Or even better, score 3 points for the win?! Darn, bitin naman!

Just before touchdown, phone started to vibrate as the updates and comments poured in. Talo! Bad trip!!!

Since I was totally oblivious to what happened after the delay, I wanted to watch the replay. Man, it took me over one hour to find out what happened after the last 9.3 seconds of play!

I was hoping for a more favorable result but nevertheless , I am proud of our Ateneo team and congratulate NU!

And my thoughts of the DLSU – FEU game? That’s a topic for tomorrow!

Gilas Pilipinas: You’ve Come A Long Way Baby

Looking Good!

Looking Good!

Not many people believed Gilas Pilipinas would do well even in the Asian level. Then some people dared to dream and worked hard to bring the FIBA Asia tournament to Manila. The Phl placed second in that said tournament and qualified for the FIBA World tournament in Spain.

Filipinos tempered their expectations for the tournament in Spain. Nobody thought the Phl could beat Argentina, Greece or Croatia. To make the second round, Gilas Pilipinas had to beat Puerto Rico then go all out vs Senegal. Well, Gilas Pilipinas reinforced by Andre Blatche nearly beat Croatia and Argentina, getting worldwide attention. Gilas Pilipinas could have beaten Puerto Rico but it wasn’t meant to be. This FIBA World experience however, would go a long, long way for the Phl.

Our better-than-expected-performance in Spain has now raised the expectations of our fellow Filipinos. Being the best performing Asian team in Spain, some people expect to get the Gold. The Asian Games organizers disallowed Andre Blatche from playing but not Marcus Douthit. Can Douthit help us get the Gold? It’s a tall order so let’s see.

As I watch the Phl play Iran in the Asian Games, I notice the Filipinos aren’t intimidated with the Iranians anymore. Two years ago, Haddadi had a field day against us by having a double-double and Iran seemed to be toying with us. Iranians are big and tend to bully smaller opponents. Take out Haddadi, Iran becomes nothing great. Just like Yao Ming to China. Skill-wise, Filipinos are better than the Iranians. But we are just significantly smaller and lighter. We can beat Iran but we need a good import.

The Gilas pool has been together for over a year now. With team members practicing together and playing international tournaments, Gilas Pilipinas can only get better. Currently the Phl is ranked 31st but if one looks at the FIBA rankings, we can realistically go as high as 13th. With the current success of the team, I’m sure any Filipino basketball player would love to play for Gilas and his country. Now if only the other team owners of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) can lend their players foregoing business rivalries. We all know basketball unites this country so Gilas success is Philippine success. Good luck Gilas! Make us proud. Puso!!!

UAAP Season 77 Team Performances

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The second round of the Season 77 UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament is over and the Final Four games start this Wednesday, September 23. So how did the different teams perform? Let me count the ways…

1. Ateneo- Unbelievable! Who would have thought that Ateneo would top the elimination round? Though they had to go thru the eye of the needle in many of their matches, a win is a win no matter what. No team can count Ateneo out even if leading by 19 points with 7 minutes remaining, as FEU can attest to. This is definitely Kiefer Ravena’s team and wherever Kiefer goes, the team goes.

2. FEU – Surprising! During the pre-season, critics predicted FEU to fight for a Final Four spot. Not the twice-to-beat advantage. With the loss of Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia, the team learned how to pass the ball and play like a team. Mike Tolomia has become the new leader of the team and Mac Belo has been a revelation. FEU could have even finished number 1 had they not suffered a meltdown vs Ateneo in the last playing date of the second round.

3. DLSU – Embarrassing! DLSU won it all last year and have even improved their roster for this year. They are 3-deep in every position and were supposed to dominate this year by going 14-0! So what happened? DLSU all season long seemed to be content to win with just enough effort which was dangerous because they were ambushed by Feu and Ateneo to start their season at 0-2. Then they lost Thomas Torres and had other injuries. Why the coaching staff didn’t complete their 16-man roster haunted them. Though they won most of their games after that, they weren’t that dominating. Then, on the night before an important game vs FEU to determine which team gets twice to beat advantage, two key players participate in a fashion show. WTF?! Sorry about that but what stupidity is that! Where are your priorities? If you really had dengue, even a mild one, common sense says it’s best to rest! I guess the money was too big to pass up. And I thought you were student-athletes with a benefactor who takes care of everything. I hope for your sake it was all well worth it.

4. NU – Overachieved. Give credit to Coach Eric Altamirano for molding his players into a cohesive unit despite losing Bobby Ray Parks. This team plays tough defense and is anchored by their import Aroga. NU players are tall and athletic and most of all have learned not to collapse in the endgame. This makes them very dangerous.

5. UE – Regrettable. This pre-season top 2 pick started off at 3-4 then finished with a 6-1 run to force a playoff with NU to determine the fourth placer. Charles Mammie is the best center in the UAAP who dominates games but at times, he disappears too! Roi Sumang is a super-guard but he didn’t play that well this season. Maybe his style of play doesn’t fit the Pumaren system. UE had the momentum going into the do-or-die game but somehow faltered. I give credit to Altamirano out-coaching Pumaren to boot out UE and UE has one year to ponder what to do next.

6. UST- “Sayang.” UST had a chance of entering the Final Four with a core of Abdul, Mariano and Ferrer. Mariano didn’t play well all season. Only God knows why. Then when Kevin Ferrer went down with a season-ending wrist injury, so did the chances of UST. I believe they only beat the teams lower than them. Next year UST has to overhaul their lineup.

7. UP – Forgettable. Their coach predicted 3 wins. And when UP beat Adamson in the first round, it seemed pretty doable. But alas, as games went by, it seemed the most UP could win was two. Then they nearly beat Ateneo had Mikee Reyes converted even one free throw. That would have sent the Final Four standings topsy- turvey and UP would have had a bigger bonfire! But it wasn’t meant to be and they even lost to a determined Adamson squad.

8. Adamson – Hopeful. With 11 rookies and a new coach what could one expect? Maybe 14 losses but just avoid being blown out. Well that really didn’t happen and I’m giving credit to Adamson fans for still coming out to cheer for their young team. Next year they will have more experience playing together and they should win more games.

Fans were treated to many exciting games this UAAP Season 77 and the Final Four seems to be an unpredictable one. Ateneo is number 1 and will play number 4 NU which it hasn’t beaten in two years. And defending champion DLSU needs to beat FEU twice when it has already lost to FEU three straight times. Something’s gotta give and may the best team win!

NU Vs. UE : Who Will Advance To the UAAP Final Four

Bulldogs Vs. Red Warriors

Bulldogs Vs. Red Warriors

NU is a tall and athletic team which is well-coached. Before the season started, critics weren’t sure if NU would make the Final Four especially after losing Bobby Ray Parks. With the emergence of Troy Rosario and the dominance of Aroga, the NU Bulldogs overachieved and could have even placed third had they beaten DLSU. Now they have to play a surging UE red Warriors to even make it to the Final Four. Oh what a precarious situation for them.

Like NU, the UE Red Warriors have two athletic imports and their man-child Charles Mammie has been on a tear lately. UE was projected during the preseason to be as high as number 2 but somehow stumbled during the first round. UE started at 3-4 and after making some adjustments, have been on a 6-1 roll ever since. The Pumaren full-court press that got the players so tired they had nothing left, was tempered til the last quarter. Charles Mammie began to start games; his minutes and numbers are up. I guess some people aren’t effective when they come off the bench. And the emergence of Bong Galanza has given UE a third scoring threat that has Ben paying huge dividends for them.

As you can surmise, I predict UE to advance to the Final Four over NU given that both teams play as expected. Mammie should play better than Aroga. Roi Sumang should be able to do his thing. Maybe Troy Rosario and Bong Galanza will cancel each other out. For NU, it now depends on how Coach Eric Altamirano can adjust and outcoach Derrick Pumaren. Maybe UE win by less than 7 points?

Ateneo – FEU: The Greatest Escape

Ateneo vs FEU

Ateneo vs FEU

Nope, I’m not talking about the Filipino peacekeepers who fought Al Queda operatives who surrounded them for three days and escaped under cover of darkness. That is truly heroic and commendable. What I’m talking about is the unbelievable recovery of the Ateneo Blue Eagles to beat the FEU Tamaraws in overtime.

The whole UAAP basketball community is stunned by what transpired. I wasn’t there to watch live but I can imagine what the crowd was thinking at that very moment. 19 points down with 6 minutes to go…talo na yan! 10 points down with 3 minutes to go…doubtful, I don’t think we have enough time. 6 points with 1 minute to go…Puede pa, maybe just maybe. Tied game with less than 2 seconds to go but with FEU premier guard on the FT line..déjà vu ala UP?

And then Tolomia missed both free throws. Unbelievable!

In overtime, it’s who gets to strike first and who can hold the fort in the end. Whew! Ateneo didn’t just dodge a bullet, we dodged a missile!

In this game, could we say that Ateneo wanted it more? FEU must’ve also wanted it because number 1 seed was on the line and with it the crucial twice-to-beat advantage. And for the first 34 minutes, FEU appeared that they indeed wanted it more and they made the Ateneo team look like high school players. But what happened after that was truly miraculous. Ateneo started to make its shots. FEU started to miss theirs which resulted in Ateneo exploiting their running game. Why FEU didn’t slow the game down is a mystery. Did FEU panic? They have been in close game situations before!

This miraculous victory was the result of two things: skill and luck. Had Ateneo not made its shots in the last 6 minutes, we would probably lost by a lot. But Lady Luck was smiling at us. Had FEU made one or two more free throws in the last quarter, the momentum could have changed and Ateneo would have fallen short. Putting the game away is one of the hardest things to do and with half of the coliseum jeering the shooter. I wouldn’t want to wish this on anyone.

I’m a die-hard Atenean and I believe in the 6th Man. Of course I’m biased. For the other schools, they believe their cheering is better than ours. Fine. But in our case, we have the history and mystique coming back from seemingly hopeless situations. And with half of the spectators shouting “Get that ball!” at the top of their voice during a frenzied rally, that could be truly rattling. The other side wouldn’t know what we are saying when we chant “Fablioh” or “Halikanu”, but it’s no joke going up against rabid fans.

For this UAAP Season 77, Ateneo has had numerous slow starts and at least 3 come-from-behind mind-boggling finishes. Is it too much to ask for a faster start and a sustained finish? Oh well, until that happens – “Mary For You, For You’re White and Blue. We Pray you Keep Us Mary Constantly True. We Pray You Keep Us Mary Faithful To You! ” OBF!

Nishikori-Cilic: Back To The Future

Early Rounds US open 2010

Early Rounds US open 2010

Sometime end of August 2010, I accompanied my son to NYC to help him settle down in his NYU dorm. We decided to watch our first Grand Slam tournament on the day Ken didn’t have any commitments with his school. Before going to the US Open, we researched on the net what were the best matches of the day. We agreed that the best first match of the day was between Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic.

Knowing the penchant of the Japanese press and fans to cover their own players, we decided to be early and reserve decent seats in this small show court. Cilic at that time was already seeded while Nishikori was an upcoming Japanese player. Cilic is known for his strong serve and attacking style while Nishikori was a retriever and counter-puncher.

I only got to see about 45 minutes of this match because I had tickets to watch the day matches in the Arthur Ashe Grandstand court, the biggest open-air tennis court in the world. I just want to mention that when I saw Cilic play live, that was the fastest serve I have ever seen and felt. When one watches at street level, the ball seems to move so much faster compared to watching on TV or in a grandstand. I felt like I was playing myself and I appreciated the speed of the players returning what seemed to be like missiles. You know, I watched Wozniacki double bagle an Asian opponent then Roger Federer toyed with a German foe in three quick sets. Then I find out from the crowd that Nishikori and Cilic were still playing a fifth set. Nishikori upset 11th seed Cilic to proceed to the next round.

Now, if someone were to tell me that these two players would be playing in a US Open Final four year later, I would have thought you were nuts! I’m sure nobody foresaw a Nishikori-Cilic Final. Most experts were salivating at the strong prospect of a Djokovic-Federer Final. Anyway, this Final looks to be an interesting one in the mold of an Agassi-Sampras Final. If Cilic serves well extremely well, I believe he will win. If the game becomes a baseline battle of survival of the fittest, Nishikori will reign supreme. Being Asian with a Japanese wife, my heart goes to Nishikori. But this game is played on hard court so an attacking game has the advantage. One thing is for sure- it’s gonna be a battle! Oh well, anyone can win this one. As people say, “The Ball Is Round!”