Let's talk balls.
This last Wednesday proved to be a most eventful day in the ongoing UAAP Season 75 basketball tournament. First Lasalle won in dramatic fashion over first round tormentor Santo Tomas 53-51. Jeron Teng, the rookie sensation and youngest ever King Archer, saved the collective hides of the Green and White with a buzzer-beating jumper with some three seconds left in that contest. That tied them with UST at 7-3, and solidified the bid of Lasalle to make the Final 4 and even contest one of top two seedings.
That wasn't the best part though. In the main game for that separate ticketing game day, reigning champion Ateneo De Manila literally had to get through a Far Eastern gauntlet before pulling away 77-64. That win kept the Blue Eagles solidly in the Number 1 position in the tournament at 8-1. However the boys of Coach Norman Black must not have felt like winners in arguably the most bruising game of the tournament this season. Three players - Ateneo's Ryan Buenafe and FEU's Arvie Bringas and Mac Belo - got tossed for various combinations of excess unsportsmanlike fouls and technical fouls whistled in this game.
Right from the opening period, the Tamaraws were literally out for some blue blood. Nico Salva tweeted after that same evening that he took easily four cheap shot punches from FEU. Belo was actually caught on camera giving a cheap shot to Salva's side from a back angle, one of the unsportsmanlike fouls that led to his tossing. Buenafe, ever the good sport and always a true believer in giving something back, took FEU's American import Anthony Hargrove down by hacking him hard on the arm on Hargrove's way up for a basket. Belo then bumped Buenafe as Hargrove writhed on the floor in pain, clutching his arm. Buenafe, never one to back down from returning a friendly gesture, half-cocked a fist and had to be separated from Belo. Arvie Bringas, Buenafe's high school teammate in San Sebastian, had to restrain his old friend. Belo and Buenafe were lined up for technical fouls and subsequently tossed.
Throughout the game the likes of Karl Cruz, Ryan Mendoza and Roger Pogoy would do their best to keep the chippy levels at a good all-time high. "This has to be the dirtiest game in the modern coverage era I've ever seen," remarked Alan Taule, a former college coach. That FEU was suddenly playing like this came as a surprise to quite a lot of people. In the today's UAAP, this sort of thing rarely happens, what with all of the cameras at almost every angle just right there and ready to capture every little bit of action.
Speaking of which, Arvie Bringas took the cake in this contest, discharging a load of spit right smack in Justin Chua's face right in front of the Ateneo bench. As the Ateneo bench pointed it out, the referees promptly tossed Bringas for incurring a disqualifying foul. FEU's coaching staff was up in arms. Bringas had earlier been brought down when Greg Slaughter, the 7-foot Ateneo center, nailed him with an elbow. Subsequent replays showed Bringas flopped, a ploy they have used since last year in trying to stop the gigantic center. Slaughter of course talked some smack as Ateneo called a timeout. That was when Bringas unloaded the spit bomb. It was intended for Slaughter but Chua caught it. When the replays clearly showed Bringas in flagrante delicto the FEU coaching staff finally quit their whining.
When action resumed the Ateneo had taken a 17-point lead and would have cruised to the win were it not for a few more extracurriculars from the FEU side. Some bench bum from FEU surnamend Guerrero, a 6-foot-4 Fr Martin mainstay, gave Nico Elorde an elbow. Elorde, grandson of boxing great Gabriel "The Flash" Elorde, looked upset enough to to take a right straight to Guerrero but was cooled off by his teammates. Pogoy, another paradigm of gentlemanly conduct, also took an elbow to Juami Tiongson, the game hero for Ateneo, as Tiongson was inbounding on the FEU part of the sidelines.
Through it all, former FEU head coach Danny Gavieres was having a fit. Gavieres, one of the toughest customers in the history of the UAAP, and one of his favorite players, Ronald Magtulis, now also an assistant coach for FEU, probably could not believe that their guys were not getting away with the old shenanigans every player could get away with back in their day. Magtulis and Gavieres won the 1997 UAAP title in a less genteel, less media-frenzied UAAP era. It would not be far-fetched to think that these two were the brains behind this thuggery, simply because this never happened at this level prior to their both joining the team.
This level of roughhousing is in fact so unheard of that for the first time in perhaps a decade, the Ateneo gallery, usually polite enough to at least stand if not applaud an opposing team while that team sings their alma mater song, this time was raining down boos, hisses and taunts
Updated 08-31-2012 at 04:03 PM by gameface_one
At the end of the first round of eliminations in UAAP Season 75, here is how the team standings look like:
1. Santo Tomas, 6-1
2. Ateneo De Manila, 6-1
3. Far Eastern University, 5-2
4. De La Salle, 4-3
5. National University, 4-3
6. University of the Philippines, 1-6
7. Adamson University, 1-6
8. University of the East, 1-6
Probably the only people not at all surprised by their leadership in the team standings are the Santo Tomas Growling Tigers themselves. Pido Jarencio, ever the type to speak his mind said so clearly enough in a conversation during the UAAP Press Conference a couple of months ago at the SMOA Arena. "Mag-ingat na lang sila sa amin ulit," he declared, to much guffawing from those present. Guess who is laughing now?
Apparently the only person who foresaw how strong and how serious these Tigers are as contenders this season is Ateneo Coach Norman Black. As early as the summer preseason tournaments he declared that UST would be a team to be reckoned with. "UST has a very good center in Karim Abdul, plus they have all of those shooters like (Jeric) Fortuna and (Jeric) Teng and even Aljohn Mariano," Black said after one Fil Oil game. "I think they will be a team to be reckoned with this season," he added.
True enough, the Tigers are the only team to have beaten Black's Blue Eagles. Seeking to complete an historic 5-peat title reign, the Ateneo is pulling out all the stops this season. UST spoiled that early on with a 70-71 escape over the reigning champions. With the Ateneo sporting as much as a 19-point lead late in the first half, that game looked like it would become another walkover for the Blue and White. Mariano suddenly went nuts in the second half, even as 7-foot center Greg Slaughter had to ride the bench for most of the second half due to personal foul problems. Teng and Abdul held off the Blue Eagles for their biggest win of this season. "Nakachamba na naman," Jarencio said of that win. At 6-1 and on top of the leader board though, Jarencio and his Tigers need to be wary of how much "chamba" they have left in them, a point to which I shall later return.
Speaking of escape acts, the FEU Tamaraws won their first three games of this season by the slimmest of margins. In fact all three of those games came down to the last possession. "They could have started the season at 0-2 as easily as 2-0," noted veteran online sports guru Sidney Ventura. In fairness they are so far the only team to have beaten the surging Tigers, and they have displayed a more or less balanced inside-outside game. Terrence Romeo still dominates the ball too much even for the disinterested basketball watcher. But the Tamaraws of Coach Bert Flores have gotten good inside production from American import Anthony Hargrove and the bruising Bringas brothers. If RR Garcia can somehow get out of his shooting funk (averaging an uncharacteristic five points or so per game in three of his last four games) and fourth-year man Russel Escoto rediscovers his own game, FEU might just have a better second round.
Host NU is likely having recurring nightmares at this point in the tournament. Last year was supposed to be a breakout season for them with the wondrous Ray Parks finally strutting his stuff in the UAAP. Parks did win the MVP award, but alas his Bulldogs were a woeful 6-8 and completely missed the playoffs last year in spite of all the hype. Already they have three first round losses, all of them to Final 4 contenders including a 20-point plus walloping from reigning champion Ateneo right in their own home court at the SMOA Arena. Parks and company just came off a double-overtime 87-86 heart breaker to La Salle to end their Round 1 campaign. The reigning MVP scored 35 points but just couldn't get his team over the hump.
La Salle for its part is probably still basking in the positive afterglow of that double-overtime thriller versus the Bulldogs. Jeron Teng proved why he was the top rookie recruit this season by setting a record 35 points. Thankfully though he did get good help from Almond Vosotros in pulling this one out of the fire. Their other two losses came from archrival Ateneo and of league-leading Santo Tomas. Aside from Teng and Vosotros the Archers' season is relying on how much longer veteran pointguard LA Revilla can remain intact physically. He was unable to finish the NU game with a heavily iced ankle. Without Revilla on the floor directing and leading the team, La Salle just starts to unravel. Mac Tallo was supposed to be the solution to this problem but he's lost minutes to true rookie Thomas Torres. Thankfully Norebert Torres and Yutien Andrada have held the fort inside and provided an interior presence for the Green Archers.
UP, Adamson and UE bring up the tail end of the standings all
This year's PBA Rookie Draft featured a lot of familiar names and not a few surprises.
Below are this year's top draft picks through Rounds 1 and 2:
1. June Mar Fajardo, 6-10 center, Petron
2. Calvin Abueva, 6-2 forward, Alaska
3. Alex Mallari, 6-3 swingman, Petron
4. Cliff Hodge, 6-3 forward, Meralco
5. Aldrech Ramos, 6-6 forward-center, BMEG from Barako Bull
6. Chris Ellis, 6-3 off-guard, Barangay Ginebra
7. Chris Tiu, 5-11 guard, Rain Or Shine
8. Keith Jensen, 6-3 forward, Barangay Ginebra
9. Vic Manuel, 6-3 forward, Global Ports from BMEG
10. Jason Deutchman, 6-6 forward-center, Global Ports
11. Yousef Taha, 6-7 center-forward, Air 21
12. Dave Marcelo, 6-4 power forward, Barako Bull
13. Jewel Ponferrada, 6-5 center-forward, BMEG
14. AJ Mandani, 5-9 guard, Global Ports
15. Lester Alvarez, 5-7 pointguard, Barako Bull
16. Eman Monfort, 5-6 pointguard, Barako Bull
17. Kelly Nabong, 6-5 power forward, Meralco
18. Woody Co, 6-2 forward, Barako Bull
19. Raffy Reyes, 5-10 guard, Alaska
20. JP Belencion, 6-0 off-guard, Talk N Text
No one doubted that Cebu standout Fajardo would become the Number 1 overall pick for this draft. At 6-10 he brings along gamechanging size. Nicknamed "The Kraken" by the indefatigable PBA announcers led by Mico Halili, Fajardo will bring additional size and inside strength to a Petron team that already features Jay Washington, Dorian Pena, Arwind Santos and Danny Ildefonso. He might become the next great PBA Big Man, at least until Greg Slaughter joins him in the pros next year.
Petron had a lot of tongues wagging with their third selection though, Filipino-American Alex Mallari. Mallari was quite the hotshot with Big Chill but was erratic, scoring 20-plus in one game then shooting 20% the next. He brings a lot of quickness and a go-hard mindset in attacking the basket, but then again there are quite a few of his type in this draft. How and why Petron selected him this high might put a target on his back when the next PBA conference opens next month.
Alaska Coach Luigi Trillo seemed to have been very impressed with "The Beast", after watching the relentless Abueva lead his San Sebastian Stags past defending champion San Beda a couple weeks back with 21 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists, and that was pretty much a par for the course game for him. "I think he can play multiple positions, and he brings a lot of athleticism," Trillo said after making the pick.
Hodge is a lot like Abueva in that he relentlessly pounds the boards and is a stud athlete, perhaps an even better athlete than Abueva is. Meralco will most likely use his as a 4/3 off the bench to pound both boards and guard opposing bench players. He will need to develop his range and trigger if he wants to stick in this league though, because he has a stiff release and funky shooting mechanics.
Barako Bull used the fifth pick to select versatile big man Aldrech Ramos, late of the FEU Tamaraws and Smart Gilas. Ramos brings quickness, agility and shot blocking along with extended range uncommon for players his size. He might be able to cover anybody from an off-guard to a power forward in the PBA. Barako then shipped Ramos to BMEG in exchange for Val Acuna and Sean Anthony.
Crowd darling Barangay Ginebra took Chris Ellis with the Number 6 pick and Keith Jensen with the Number 8 pick. Both Filipino-Americans wowed in the D League, with Ellis even becoming a mainstay on the SEA Games Smart Sinag team. With the Fast and Furious likely running on their last full tank, Ellis and Jensen should make for a much better Fast and Furious combination far into the future for the Gin Kings.
Latest PBA champion Rain Or Shine snapped up the man many thought would go higher in this first round, using the Number 7 pick on multi-media darling Chris Tiu. Tiu got a load of attention and buzz weeks prior to this draft as the former Ateneo and Smart Gilas mainstay was tabbed to be of high value both on the court and in the marketing plans of whichever team selected him. "It has always been my dream to play in the PBA, and I thank Rain Or Shine for giving me this opportunity," Tiu declared.
Global Ports, the newest PBA franchise, rounded out the first round with former PBL and D League MVP Vic Manuel at Number 9, and Filipino-American Jason Deutchman at Number 10. Manuel is ripe for the PBA and has great skills across the board. Some see him as Arwind Santos-lite. Deutchman is coming off an injury and has yet to fully display his game. This pick was a gamble for Mikee Romero and company, but Deutchman at 6-6 could be someone worth waiting on.
Big men Yousef Taha and Kelly Nabong might be the only second round picks
Updated 08-22-2012 at 12:53 PM by admin