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Philippine Basketball

  1. Coach This 3

    Can you imagine that? In Black's six trips to the UAAP Finals, only Pido Jarencio, at that time a rookie coach to boot, beat him for the championship. Yet I'm sure even the most diehard Jarencio fans would never say that Jarencio > Black as a coach. In his 5-Peat title reign, only Lawrence Chongson of UE, hardly mentioned as among the paradigms of great coaches, beat Black (by a big margin at that) in a game in the UAAP Finals. Again, I'm sure no one would ever say Chongson > Black as a coach.

    The point I am trying to make is not to sing praises about the greatness of Black, or Tommy Manotoc, or Franz Pumaren, or Louie Alas, or the late Ron Jacobs. Many people, much greater than I, have already done that.

    Instead, what I submit is that, perhaps there really is no such thing as great coaches, so much as there are great talents put together on great rosters.

    Think about it. With the possible exception of Brown and Detroit versus the Lakers in 2004, and Ayo this season in the NCAA versus San Beda, the more talented rosters with the more talented players in aggregate, have won championship battles. And even in these two instances, the talent Brown and Ayo had respectively was nothing to sneeze at.

    Billups, Hamilton, Prince, and the Wallace boys were all star-level players, who had always been dependable, consistent producers on whatever team they were on. Ben Wallace was not much of a scorer, but his defense and board work were all star caliber, almost Dennis Rodman-like.

    Mark Cruz outplayed the more fancied Baser Amer in the NCAA Finals, using speed and a quicker pull-up. Running with Rey Nambatac and Kevin Racal, and even McJour Luib and Jomar Sollano, Ayo's boys proved to be the match-up from hell for the Red Lions who relied almost exclusively on their size and power advantage with 6-8 import Ola Adeogun and 6-4 forward Arthur Dela Cruz.

    Yes, a good coach would know how to maximize the talent he inherits from a predecessor, and then build his own roster over time. But again, it is not necessarily about just grabbing every all star available (see Jail Blazers of previous entries). It takes maybe two or three superstars, and a bunch of interchangeable, hardworking role players. Black did that first with Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Nonoy Baclao, and Chris Tiu. Later on he had Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, and Kiefer Ravena. Pumaren had Don Allado, Renren Ritualo, and Mike Cortez. Koy Banal and later on Bert Flores leaned on Arwind Santos and Mark Isip, with Denok Miranda and later on Jonas Villanueva.

    It does not necessarily come down to brilliance in the X and O, so much as brilliance in recognizing what will work best, and then building your roster to achieve that. Coaching becomes easier when you have the elite talent making your favored system working. "Maghanap ka ng magagaling na players, para dumali ang trabaho mo. Isipin mo naman, papano kung ang sentro mo 6-1, na may katabaan, mahina tumalon, mabagal. Kesehodang may good fundamentals 'yan, lalamunin 'yan ng 6-5 na atleta na malakas, kahit hindi magsing-ganda fundamentals nila. Matuturo mo pa skills eh, pano punwesto sa box out, pano mag-ball denial, pano mag-hook shot. Anong turo gagawin mo para maging five seconds or less ang baseline to baseline? Anong turo gagawin mo para maging 36 inches ang vertical ng isang player na 12 inches lang ang kaya?" expounded one longtime UAAP assistant coach and scout.

    I recall how Koy Banal, then the FEU head coach, discovered Arwind Santos. FEU went to Pampanga to take part in goodwill games. They played a Pampanga street ball team that featured the wiry Santos. He promptly made mincemeat of Leo Avenido, at that time the FEU star and one of the best players in the UAAP. Santos, a pedicab driver, without any formal, structured training and coaching, made mincemeat of Avenido, a well-trained UAAP star. Did Banal become less of a coach because he could find no solution for a natural talent like Santos? Santos is now a bona fide PBA superstar and an MVP. Does anyone even know what has become of Avenido?

    Eric Altamirano was a champion coach last year. This year he lost two of his starters, and his chief backup at center, and he went 7-7, barely making the Final 4. He was hailed as a genius last season. Has he suddenly become a fool this season?

    Juno Sauler was a champion coach two seasons ago. Again, he lost a lot of key personnel, and he went 6-8 this season, not even making the Final 4. Was he a genius two seasons ago and suddenly a fool now?

    Black's Meralco squad is the worst team in the onging PBA conference. Are we to hold this conference as the ultimate judgement of Black's entire coaching career?

    Baldwin, Pumaren, Ayo are in the UAAP. Will they automatically be three of the Final 4? I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

    Great coaches ...
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    Philippine Basketball
  2. Glory B wins FMC Div 2 Crown

    Quote Originally Posted by Joescoundrel View Post
    Ateneo's Team Glory B hung tough against a talented Arellano B side to win the Fr Martin Cup Division 2 championship 107-100 on an overcast Sunday morning at the FEU Gym in R Papa.

    It was a game of runs and spurts, as both sides clearly came to play hard for the title.

    The B Eagles came out with an early 5-0 lead, but the B Chiefs responded soon enough. CJ Perez looked like it wold be a short morning for him, picking up two quick fouls in the opening period. Baby Beast was on-track early, taking it to the rack at every opportunity.

    Arellano however showed its snappy halfcourt game, going to the low post as 6-4 center Mark Santos had his way with some nifty hook shots against the man defense of KMark Carino.

    Anton Asistio found the range early from the three-point arc to make it 17-10 for the Ateneo, but 6-foot 2-guard Mike Calleta and 5-11 guard Mark Viloria responded for the Chiefs to bring them within two 20-18 to end the first period.

    That set the tone for the rest of the game, with the Ateneo racing to a lead only to have Arellano rally back and stay within striking distance.

    In the third period however, Glory B leaned on the scoring of Asistio, Perez, Dan Wong, and timely hits from Cole Micek and Shaggy Allmond, Jr. Asistio was having a dickens of a time trying to keep up with the tough, strong guards of Arellano, but Micek and Allmond were able to provide a stronger match-up on defense.

    Big men Kris Porter, Tim Cu, and Jay Javelosa took turns manning the low blocks and the lane, and matching up against Santos and the other Arellano forwards. Javelosa however had to miss the payoff fourth period after taking a couple of knees to both thighs. Ateneo held a 79-70 advantage at the end of three quarters. At this point Asistio had already tallied 32 points, and he was not yet done.

    Arellano kept trying to fight back behind Calleta, Viloria and Santos, even briefly taking the lead at 81-82 early in the fourth period.

    Asistio however decided to put on a shooting clinic, giving the lead back to the Ateneo and even padding it, with help from the high-flying, all-motor rack attacks of Perez. "Parang (Gabe) Norwood, kompleto atake, medyo kelangan lang maka-develop ng jumpshot," remarked basketball legend and Arellano head coach Jerry Codinera after the game, when asked about Perez.

    Arellano came within 102-100 with still a minute and change to go. Steady freethrow shooting however preserved the victory for the Ateneo.

    Perez had a tournament-high 45 points, Perez added 20.

    Calleta led the B Chiefs with 25 markers, with 14 from Viloria.

    This is now Glory B head coach Yuri Escueta's third championship, same with Tomas Ramos and Mark Gamboa. It is the team's second title for the semester.
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  3. Knights Shine

    It took me quite a while to get around to writing about the epic (no other word would suffice) Finals Series of the NCAA Season 91 senior division basketball tournament. I was lucky enough to have been able to cover all three games, and this was truly one for the ages. As my friends and I have discussed over the last few days, this championship is arguably the best we've seen in the last 10 years. Allan Gregorio, a basketball lifer who also covers the NCAA as part of the TV Panel, perhaps said it best when he wished that two trophies could be given, one for each team. It was that kind of a series.

    In the end the Letran Knights ended a dynasty that many thought would continue well into the near future, defeating the San Beda Red Lions 85-83 in overtime in the winner-take-all Game 3 last Thursday, 29 October.

    Letran took the series opener on 23 October, 94-90, in a game that turned into a shootout in the last period. San Beda evened things up at 61-68 in Game 2 on 27 October, relying on their vaunted team defense and the hard work of sophomore forward JV Mocon.

    Kevin Racal, now a rookie for the Alaska Aces in the PBA, was the star in Game 1, exploding for 28 points and waxing hot from three-point range. He also led the Knights in the title-clincher in Game 3 with 23 points. Even as the 6-1 Racal pulled out all the stops though, it was the diminutive pointguard Mark Cruz, at all of 5-6, who would be named Finals MVP.

    Cruz, younger brother of ex pro and UP Fighting Maroon Marvin, provided critical scoring and playmaking support to Racal. He used his unmatched foot speed and ability to carve up opposing defenses to provide a steady driving presence for the Knights of rookie coach Aldin Ayo. His fast driving game put a lot of pressure on the San Beda defense, since he was a lot faster than any Red Lion guard. Keeping him in front and away from the driving lanes was not something the San Beda perimter could easily do.

    Jomari Sollano was another revelation in the series for the Knights. Generously listed at 6-4, probably closer to 6-3 in his sneakers, the newcomer provided relentless and well-played defense against 6-8 Nigerian import Ola Adeogun, the man chiefly responsible for anchoring the stout San Beda interior game. With his perimter shooting and ability to catch-shoot off the feeds of Cruz, Sollano was a match-up problem for which Red Lions head coach Jamike Jarin had no solution. Adeogun had no choice but to leave the paint whenever Sollano got the ball, leaving the San Beda defense vulnerable to the slashing and short-shooting of Cruz, 5-9 guard Rey Nambatac, and 5-7 guard McJour Luib.

    Ayo played the mismatches so well in Letran's favor, it seemed Jarin had just been completely bamboozled and discombobulated. "We just played to our strengths, which is speed and shooting, kasi alam naman namin na hindi namin kayang sabayan ang laki at lakas ng San Beda sa loob," Ayo explained in one interview. It was that speed that also allowed his Knights to jam passing lanes, and steal passes from the weak side angles. Once they got the ball it was off to the races, and the Red Lions just could not keep up in transition.

    Letran actually looked like it had the title all wrapped up in regulation of Game 3, erecting an eight-point spread 75-67 with time down to under two minutes in regular play, thanks mainly to back-to-back three-pointers by Racal. But San Beda hunkered down on defense, and Baser Amer, a first round PBA draft pick, completed a steal off Luib and raced down court to force overtime at 75-all. Letran still had the last possession to try and win it all but could not get off a good shot.

    In the overtime, it became a war of attrition, with big shot after big shot coming from either side;s stars, Racal and Cruz for Letran, Amer and Adeogun for San Beda. It would be the unheralded Sollano however that would finally ice the game and the title for the Knights. Sollano nailed a baseline jumper to give Letran the lead for good at 83-82. He added a freethrow to make it 84-82.

    Letran also benefited from a double lane violation called by the left sector referee near the baseline. This happened with Sollano's second freethrow from the previous play. Sollano still had the ball in his hands when slow motion replays showed a Letran player entered the lane first. But Adeogun, with the ball still unreleased and in Sollano's hands, also entered the lane, thereby resulting in the double lane violation, as Sollano missed that freethrow. Under the current rules, that resulted in a jumpball, and a referral to the possession arrow. That arrow was pointing in favor of Letran.

    As critical as the call was, it was the right and proper call, and the videos would prove it. San Beda team manager Jude Roque, usually a reserved person, was so upset with the double lane violation that he went ...
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  4. USTe is Really Going

    Whenever I look back on the preseason predictions I could just slap my self silly. I was one of the fools who just plain dismissed Santo Tomas as a Final 4 contender, thinking that the loss of Aljon Mariano would mean there was simply even less talent available for a team that already struggled last season.

    Lo and behold the Growling Tigers of our beloved Bchoter are sharing the top of the standings with Far Eastern at 5-1, and may yet wind up at the top after the first round of eliminations.

    So why the disconnect? How could I have gotten them so wrong?

    As with most bad calls this one started with wrong assumptions.

    Assumption 1: Aljon Mariano's departure means an even less talented team.

    As good as Mariano is, as vital as he was to the two trips to the Finals for UST in the last three years, he clearly was equal parts good news and bad news for the Tigers. That infamous bad decision he made in their Finals against De La Salle in 2013 will forever etch him in UAAP lore. Mariano may have been a legit college star, but his decision-making was never his strong suit. That one bad decision in the 2013 Finals might have cost UST a championship. It most certainly cost Mariano's reputation as a player. Even some UST fans questioned whatever possessed him on that play.

    Without Mariano on this year's team that ball has been whipping around a lot more quickly. Even the ball-reversal is moving better. Mariano was one of those players that needs to fondle the ball a bit before making a move, a real tempo killer. With him gone, the ball moves better, and more opportunities are given to the likes of Ed Daquioag, Louie Vigil, Mario Bonleon, and even Jon Sheriff and Marvin Lee. (More on those guys later.)

    Assumption 2: UST cannot win without MVP numbers from Karim Abdul.

    Over six games, the 6'5" UST import has put in lower numbers across almost the entire board compared to his numbers last season. He is currently scoring nearly five points less, and getting almost two less rebounds per game compared to his Season 77 averages. Come to it, these are his lowest numbers in the five seasons he has been in the league. And yet at around this same time last season they were not even at .500, while they are sharing the lead in the standings right now.

    Of course it would be even better news for UST if Abdul would get back to being his usual dominating self. He is clearly not in 100% game shape. He has gotten beaten to spots he used to own, has had rebounds taken from him that he used to collar easily, and has allowed one too many baseline plays get by him. Still, UST is winning, and it should be only a matter of time before he gets back into game shape. When that happens expect the Tigers to get an extra gear or two leading up to the playoffs.

    Assumption 3: UST does not have reliable support for their stars.

    UST normally starts Abdul, Kevin Ferrer, Vigil, Daquioag, and Sheriff. So far their significant bench contributors have consisted of Lee, Bonleon, Kent Lao, Zach Huang, Jeepy Faundo, and during the La Salle game, former UP Fighting Maroon Kyle Suarez.

    Most fans know and expect production from the likes of Abdul, Ferrer, Daquioag, and maybe a little something from Vigil and Sheriff. Move on over to the UST bench and the same fans know and expect very little. This I think is where my most epic failure lies. And it starts with Vigil.

    I was always a bit of a Vigil fan when he was a Jose Rizal Light Bomber, even bringing him to try out for the Ateneo about five years ago. When he wound up in UST after an aborted stint with La Salle my opinion of him diminished in direct proportion to each pound of bad weight he gained. Now however he has become a vital cog for the Tigers, providing timely baskets in support of Ferrer and Daquioag. His numbers are actually down from the previous season, but the quality of his baskets seems to have improved. He had timely hits in their big victory against FEU, their comeback against the Ateneo, and in their blowout against La Salle as well.

    Bonleon, who was previously with University of the East, has also been surprising, also coming through with quality baskets. He has even been running with purpose on both ends and defending well. His best lockdown effort was against reigning MVP Kiefer Ravena, when UST overhauled a 16-point deficit to emerge with a 10-point victory.

    Lee and Sheriff have had their share of blunders at the pointguard spot, but they have certainly helped more than hurt. Neither demands the ball, nor do they look for their own offense, and they can make the occasional kick-out shot. Suddenly the odd man out is Renzo Subido.

    Lao and Faundo have provided toughness inside, rebounds, the occasional basket, and have generally done everything their coach has ...
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  5. Surprises

    Who would have thought things would be this way in the ongoing UAAP Season 78 senior division?

    Let's take a quick rundown:

    1. State University is 2-1, starting the season at 2-0, matching their best start in the last decade or so. They leaned on the surprising shooting of center Gelo Vito to turn back the University of the East in the first game of the season.

    Then they beat De La Salle on a weekday game with yet another surprisingly good shooting day, this time featuring the returning swingman Jett Manuel. Their improved defense held the normally prolific Jeron Teng to 10 points and five fouls. Teng's last foul, an offensive foul, was indicative of the frustration wrought on him by the pesky UP defense.

    They lost to Santo Tomas over the weekend, scoring only four points in the opening period of this game. They tried to come back, but Ed Daquioag and Kevin Ferrer had an answer for everyting the Fighting Maroons threw at the Growling Tigers.

    2. Speaking of which, Ed Daquiaog has turned into a scoring machine, and is the main cog in UST's 3-0 start. Import Karim Abdul, while still an intimidating presence especially off the boards, has not been his usual dominating self. Thank God for Daquioag, whose scoring average of a little over 24 points per game is second only to Ateneo star Kiefer Ravena. Daquioag has effectively tripled his scoring average from last season. The former Rizal Tech high school star is proving that athlete's really do have more of an upside. This early there is buzz about him contending for MVP.

    Their biggest win came against Far Eastern, during that same weekday schedule where UP beat Lasalle. Daquioag put on the full showcase there, driving at will, pulling up, and being a thoroughbred in transition. FEU had no answer for him.

    3. UE's Edson "Bon Bon" Batiller picked a fine time to show exactly why he got a UAAP roster spot, as he put on a second-half shooting display that upended Lasalle. Teng had a tough time against the signature pressing defense of the Pumarens as the press made life difficult for him, and indeed all of the Archers, in the second half.

    Batiller erupted in the third period, outscoring the entire Green and White side by himself. It was enough to build a 60-46 spread for his Red Warriors.

    Pointguard Ed Charcos also had a fine showing in this game, helping hold off the Archers in the end-game by getting the offensive rebound off his own missed freethrow with some 40 seconds remaining in the game.

    4. Ateneo's Team Glory B boys blew the Adamson Falcons off the floor in the third period of their game over the weekend. First half action was tight, with the Falcons even leading the Blue Eagles at some point thanks to the speed of pointguard Joseph Nalos and off-guard Jon Capote.

    In the third period though, the Ateneo finally got a double-digit spread courtesy of a highly athletic move by Ravena. But it was the mostly Glory B five on the floor that really blew the game wide open. Koko Pingoy, Aaron Black, Adrian Wong, and import Chebuize Ikeh ran the floor and played the quick outlet game they ran so well in Fr Martin Cup action to leave the Falcons behind. Gwyne Capacio got into the program and helped himself to some of Pingoy's pinpoint passing.

    Speaking of Pingoy, he was able to get his game going after going scoreless on opening weekend against the Tamaraws. Pingoy played a lot better without Mike Tolomia in front of him.

    5. As for FEU, it seems they are living up to their preseason billing as title favorites for Season 78. Although they lost to FEU and are at 2-1, their two wins came against powerhouses Ateneo and Lasalle, and both were blowouts for the Tamaraws. They walloped the Ateneo by 24, Lasalle by 18. They lost to league leader UST by only one point.

    No team has the depth of FEU, so trying to go toe to toe against the Tamaraws would be a huge mistake. Tolomia, Mac Belo, Russell Escoto, Achie Inigo, Toto Arong, Roger Pogoy, Raymar Jose, and now even 6'9" import Prince Orizu, are arguably the best rotation in the league.

    6. The defending champions are sharing the cellar with Adamson. Import Alfred Aroga is not playing at his usual high level, lending credence to preseason buss that the injury he suffered in the offseason really has not fully healed. The 6'6" import was wearing an ortho boot on his foot as late as the end of the summer tournaments.

    Gelo Alolino is playing like an MVP, but it seems the loss of Trot Rosario, Glen Khobuntin, and Henri Beteyane really are too great to overcome. NU needs to have its rookies like Med Salim, and its veterans like Jay Alejandro, step up.

    It is only about the midway point of the first round and already all the unpredictability is making for great headlines. It should be interesting ...
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