basketball

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!

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!

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!

Gilas Pilipinas: Yes, The Filipino Can!

Thank you Gilas Pilipinas!

Thank you Gilas Pilipinas!

In my previous blog entitled, “Take Heart Phl“, I mentioned about the Filipinos over-reliance on its import in the last 5 minutes causing the Filipinos to freeze and abandon their attacking style for the half-court set. In three of Gilas Pilipinas first four games the game was lost in the last two minutes. How tragic! But that’s basketball and one can only learn from defeat and move on.

Against Senegal, Gilas Pilipinas was ahead most of the game until Senegal made a final run and sent the game into overtime. With about two minutes remaining in overtime, Andre Blatche fouled out and I’m sure not many people gave the Phl a chance. But no the Filipinos found a way to win through defense and conversion of free throws! Call it Serendipity. The Filipinos had to dig deep inside and trust the system. The players have proved to themselves that they can win on their own merits. This experience is invaluable and will be remembered for a long, long time.

I want to thank all the Gilas players for sacrificing for their country, thank Chot Reyes and the coaching staff for showing a basketball style that is uniquely Filipino, and thank the team backers and managers for dreaming big, for showing their countrymen that we can hustle with the big boys and for reminding us that “Yes, The Filipino Can!” Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Yes, the Philippines Can Beat Argentina!

Believe it or not!

Let’s see . . . PH lost to Croatia by 3 points in overtime while Croatia beat Argentina by 5 points in regulation. So we should have a decent chance of beating Argentina, right?

Maybe.

I would say that if the Gilas would play ten games with Argentina, Gilas would probably win at least one game. There’s always that chance. To beat Argentina, Gilas must play its best game and hope Argentina plays a mediocre game. Definitely Andre Blatche must play well for us to have a chance.

Our team is undoubtedly the smallest team in the FIBA tourney but one of the fastest. Argentina is big and full of NBA veterans that are aging who probably would be slow and unable to run back to defend against a fast break. So the Philippine team has to capitalize on its speed and their 3-pointers because there is no way that they can to pound it out inside the paint.

Moreover, Argentina doesn’t seem to play that well and is a way different team without Ginobili. I pray Andre Blatche, Jeff Chan, Paul lee, Jimmy Alapag and Jason Castro have monster games and that Marc Pingris hold his own against a bruising Nocioni. Good luck, Gilas! Our nation is with you! Laban Pilipinas!

Thank You, Gilas Pilipinas! You make Us Proud!

Blatche limps to the bench during the timeout. Getting ice now on his right knee.  Photo courtesy of @tjmanotoc

Blatche limps to the bench during the timeout. Getting ice now on his right knee. Photo courtesy of @tjmanotoc

Finally, the FIBA World tournament is upon us. Before the game started, people didn’t give the PH a chance. Experts predicted a blowout while Filipinos hoped for a credible performance from their heroes. Well, Filipinos got more than that! The PH trailed most of the game but rallied and even led near the endgame. With the score tied, the whole nation prayed that the long shot of Jeff Chan would go in. But it wasn’t meant to be and the game went into overtime. So near but yet so far!

During the overtime we were able to keep it close and somehow the game got away from us. Though we made one last run capped by a Blatche three-pointer, we fell short. Filipinos believe Jason Castro was fouled in the end by attempting a three pointer, but the refs hid their whistles.

At such a crucial moment, I doubted the refs would blow their whistles. But what if they did? Could we have beaten Croatia? The basketball world would turn upside down if we did! Ah…what-ifs are so dangerous. Had we lost without even leading the game, everyone will give kudos to the team. But the thing is, we led and had a chance to win the game! Sayang!

Nothing to be ashamed of Gilas! You make us proud! If we feel the pain, we are sure you guys are feeling even more pain! This was a good game for you so build on the experience and maybe – just maybe – upset Greece. I’m sure the other teams in the bracket will not take Gilas Pilipinas for granted anymore. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Gilas Pilipinas players, coaches and managers for sacrificing for our country. They believed so we should believe too! For those supporters and OFWs who took time out to watch the games and support the team: Mabuhay kayo!