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  1. #11
    ^ This is how it was for De La Salle in UAAP Season 81.

    It came down to a knockout game between them and FEU to decide which of them would face eventual champion Ateneo in the Final 4.

    Losing their beefy 6-8 import for 12 games was just too telling a blow, and having a rookie head coach in Louie Gonzalez didn't help.

    "Ikaw ba naman mawalan ng magaling na 6-8 siguro naman mahirapan ka din," said Mr Libog, over our usual weekend lunch, a few days after Taane Samuel suffered a Jones Fracture in their first game and was declared out for several weeks.

    Turns out there was a heck of a silver lining to that, as Justin Baltazar, another 6-8 big man, went on to have a career season, capped with making the Mythical 5.

    "Magaling naman talaga si Baltazar," Mr Libog asserted. "Kung sa UST or UE nagpunta 'yan baka nag-ROY pa nga 'yan, baka second or third time na niya sa Mythical 5."

    The writing on the wall however became clear and unequivocal when it turned out the Final 4 cast was made up of the same teams La Salle couldn't beat or had a hard time with in the elimination rounds.

    "Coincidence ba na 'yung Top 4 teams sila din 'yung mga tumalo sa La Salle? Coincidence ba na first time yata in 10 years na na-season sweep ng U.P. ang La Salle," asked Mr Libog, rhetorically I gathered.

    "Huwag na nga 'yung Ateneo, siempre bigay na natin 'yon, unfair din naman na may (Angelo) Kouame kalaban mo tapos ikaw nabawasan ka pa ng Taane. Pero FEU, Adamson, lalo na U.P., ganun-ganun lang ba na mas magaling silang lahat sa La Salle? Parang may mali eh..." he continued to muse.

    "Meron kang Baltazar, (Leonard) Santillan, even (Brandon) Bates isn't bad, better than AVO (former Green Archer Arnold Van Opstal), siguro naman dapat kaya mo sina (Arvin) Tolentino, sina (Sean) Manganti, sina (Juan) Gomez de Liano," he continued.

    It takes more than size and skill to win a championship said I.

    "Yeah right," he sniggered.

    So how did La Salle not make the Final 4?

    "Their perimeter is weak: Aljun (Melecio) is a mad bomber, (Andrei) Caracut never really panned out, Kib (Montalbo) is not a real point guard," he explained. "So sino magbibigay ng bola sa big men nila? Kahit pa gano kagaling mga big men mo, someone has to get the ball to them kasi hindi naman Kevin Durant ang mga 'yan, someone has to get them the ball, like Matt (Nieto) to Kouame."

    "Kasalanan ba ni Gonzalez na hindi mabigyan ng bola big men niya? Baka naman hindi talaga kasi ganun mga guards niya. None of their guards grew up as creators or facilitators, unlike Matt."

    Compelling, but perhaps not complete as an explanation.

    Gonzalez is not exactly a big name in coaching, but surely he must know his basketball, as he has been around for a while.

    "Ayan ka na naman. Coach na naman? Ano ba magagawa ng coach pag hindi gumana players?" Mr Libog continued. "Sunod na sasabihin mo, genius na naman si Tab (Baldwin) ninyo, haha!"

    And so there we have it.

    What's next for them then?

    "When Taane comes back and they have (Tyus) Hill, (Jordan) Bartlett, and (Kurt) Lojera onboard ibang team na 'yan, guaranteed."

    With that he picked up the check.

  2. #12

    De La Salle University opened its 13th FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup with a bang by crushing University of Santo Tomas, 72-49, in opening day action Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre. It was a fitting beginning as the new look Green Archers turned up the heat in the second period behind team captain Andrei Caracut and never looked back. READ MORE

  3. #13
    Lasalle closed Round 1 of Season 82 at 3-4, exactly as a friend of mine predicted his team would go. Is he psychic? Probably. More likely, he's just seen his team in its many iterations and figured out what a lot of people did not, could not, or simply would not: Lasalle has a lot of talent, quality size, plus athleticism across most of their board. Unfortunately, a lot of that talent is taking quite a while to come together as a real team.

    "Ikaw ba naman magdala ng tatlong one-done, na turns out isa lang pala dun ang magaling," remarked Mr. Libog in between helpings of stir-fried spinach and garlic and deep fried whole pompano. "Sinabi ko naman sa iyo 'di ba? Kelangan kasing-galing nina Danny Seigle, Stanley Pringle, at Raymond Almazan ang tatlong 'yon para sure champ ang Lasalle. Ano ba totoong nangyari?"

    Only Jamie (Orme) Malonzo is good, Keys Meeker and James Laput aren't much, or at least haven't been getting minutes befitting their one-done status.

    "Kasi nga si Orme lang naman totoong magaling sa kanilang tatlo," he retorted.

    That's because they haven't gotten minutes, said I.

    "Pare, tingin mo ba kung kunwari 'yung Meeker iniiwan lang sina (Jordan) Bartlett, sina (Kurt) Lojera, sina Aljun (Melecio), ganun ba ka-tanga coach niya na hindi siya ibababad? Or si Laput, kunwari pinapakain lang niya ng bola sina (Justin) Baltazar, sina (Brandon) Bates, hindi ba siya ibababad nung coach?" he asked rhetorically.

    I mused over those thoughts and figured, he may have a point there.

    "Huwag mo na pagisipan, alam mo na sagot dun, haha!" he said as he took a big gulp of his diet soda.

    So what is in store for them in Round 2?

    "I wouldn't be surprised kung sila makalaban ng Ateneo mo sa Finals," he boldly predicted.

    "What!? You just said they sucked!" I answered, totally discombobulated.

    "I said no such thing. Sabi ko lang, hindi pa sila totoong team, pero tignan mo pa din lineup nila. 'Yang Orme tingin ko pag nagpa-draft 'yan, huwag lang may kasabay siyang malaki na magaling, sure ako siya Number 1 pick. Nakita mo ba ginawa niyang dunk kay Thirdy? 'Yang Balti at Bates, don't tell me kung draft ngayon unahin mo sa kanila sina Isaac (Go) at Will (Navarro), hindi siguro. Alam mo kung san lang ako duda? Dun sa Aljun at Andrei (Caracut), kasi mukhang maraming gustong gawin ang dalawa bago sila matapos sa Lasalle,. If ever sumablay ang prediction ko, silang dalawa dapat sisihin, Kasi alangan naman si Orme, or si Balti, or even si Encho (Serrano), or si Tyrus Hill, so obviously kung sumablay ang Lasalle, 'yang dalawang beteranong mad bombers nila dapat sisihin," he concluded.

    So what will their Round 2 look like?

    "Tingin ko 6-1, siempre kay (Angelo) Kouame lang sila mahihirapan, the rest tingin ko kaya naman nila, hindi nila lalamunin ha, pero kaya naman nila. UP cannot defend, Adamson is too dependent on (Valandre) Chauca, UST is 99% (Soulemane) Chabi Yo, FEU nakachamba lang sa kanila. Again ha, maybe hindi nila lalamunin, pero sure ako kaya naman nila kung matchup - matchup lang."

    Hang on to your green and white hats, folks.

    Mr Libog has a heck of a batting average.

  4. #14
    "I fucking hate you," said I.

    Mr Libog didn't even stop stuffing his gob with the excellently charred brick oven pizza with prosciutto and arugula as he asked, "What the fuck is your problem now?"

    "We didn't make the spread on the last game goddam it!" I exclaimed exasperatedly.

    "Its sports betting, you know, legal gambling but still gambling, by definition that is never a sure thing. If you want a sure thing, try stocks and futures," and he took a swig of his Diet Coke.

    The Ateneo won by eight points over Lasalle over the weekend, and our inveterate book makers gave us a spread of... a little more than that. As we were both inclined to think the Ateneo would walk all over Lasalle, much like their first round encounter, we put money on the Blue Eagles.

    "Its that so-called genius coach of yours, you know, that Tab Baldwin, he doesn't post (Angelo) Kouame up much, preferring that ridiculous pasa-pasa, ikot-bola bullshit. If he had actually trained Kouame the way (former Ateneo head coach Norman) Black trained Rabeh (Al-Hussaini) I swear to you Kouame would eat every frontline in the UAAP alive, every goddam frontline. But your guy doesn't want to do it that way, he thinks basketball is a team game where the, what was it he said? The 16th guy is just as important as the starting 5? God... what utter and absolute bullshit." And this time he was having at the very flavorful pasta tartuffo with vodka cream sauce.

    "What the hell is it with you and Tab anyway? Did he used to date your sister? Hindi si (Lawrence) Chongson 'yan ha," I protested.

    "I never said he was. And I would even go so far as to say he absolutely knows his stuff, certainly I might even say he's a good coach. Pero alam mo naman ang tingin ko sa coaches 'di ba? No such thing as a genius coach. Tab is not a genius coach, even Norman is not a genius coach," he said.

    We've had this conversation many times before of course, and I was wondering how this turned up in a discussion over the last Ateneo-Lasalle game.

    "If he was a real genius should he not go to his best player, all the time? Si Phil Jackson nga, kahit si Pat Riley, or si Greg Popovich, they always give credit and mention their superstars like Shaq (O'Neal), Kobe (Bryant), Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan. How come Tab, when he has an interview, barely mentions any of his guys. If I had Kouame on my team, I would never bullshit the media: I'd tell them straight that 99% of the reason we're winning is because of Kouame. Hindi nga tayo halos maka-shoot pag nakaupo si Kouame eh, wala din tayo taga-gulo sa loob para hindi maka-shoot mga kalaban pag wala si Kouame. So ano pa silbi nung hocky assist at nung playing the right way na parati niyang binibida? Isaac (Go) was what, 15% from three-point range before the UP game? I thought Tab turned him into the finest stretch 5 in the league? 15%? We're near the bottom in terms of offense, where are all the baskets that are supposed to come from the 'Tab System' that everyone raves about? Don't tell me it only works on defense, because the reason we're at the top on defense is because our import blocks more shots than entire teams, and changes even more shots than he blocks just by being on the floor. I doubt that has anything to do with any system." As he once again went through his litany.

    I was waiting for him to get to the point.

    "So if he had trained Kouame and gone to him, the way Phil went to Shaq, Kouame would probably be averaging an easy 25 and 15 to go with his 4 blocks. He would've gotten an easy 30 and 20 against Lasalle, for sure. He's 7-feet, maybe 260 pounds, and he's gotten stronger and faster. Ano gagawin ng Lasalle para pigilan siya, ubusin mga fouls nina (Justin) Baltazar, (Brandon) Bates, kahit nung bulok na (James) Laput? (Jamie) Malonzo nga fouled out eh. You wanna know why we lost that bet? Because your coach is not a genius, worse, he's stubborn, and probably a little ego-driven, meaning Ateneo has to win because of Tab and Tab's System, not because of Angelo Kouame," he emphasized.

    "That's not a fair accusation. You can't argue with success, right?" said I.

    "Of course, 10-0, sinong gago magsasabing mali si Tab? Pero you were asking why we didn't win the bet. The answer is simple: Tab has to win HIS way." he responded.

    "So what about Lasalle, what happens to them now? They have five games to go, three against teams that beat them in Round 1," I asked.

    "Kaya na nila mga 'yon. Kaya nila mawalis mga huling laro nila. Sana lang hindi atakihin ng katangahan coach nila, or sapian na naman ng espirito ng bwakaw at bayani basketball 'yun dalawang maliit nila (Andrei Caracut and Aljun Melecio). Huwag na nila pahirapan sarili nila, pahawak bola kay (Jordan) Bartlett, gawin lang catch-shoot sina Melecio at Caracut. Kung may magandang cut si (Encho) Serrano, sige bigay sa kanya. Bigyan din sa poste si Balti. Hayaan na din nila na mag-roam si Malonzo, kasi kaya naman nun gumawa na sarili lang niya," he enumerated.

    He added quickly, "They still have quality size, good athletes, guys who can shoot the three, and they run well as a team. Even Wacky (Manuel) is a useful, heady type. Its all up to them if they want to simplify the game or overthink it just because they need to win their remaining games."

    The Ateneo can basically lose all four of its remaining games and be - at worst - the second seed in a Final 4 scenario, meaning they still get twice-to-beat. But no one is betting on the Blue Eagles losing ANY games at all.

    Lasalle still has the tools, the depth, and the weapons to make a big, hard push for the Finals, but they need to play to their strengths and put this last loss behind them.

    "Ateneo-Lasalle Finals pa din tingin ko," was Mr Libog's parting shot as he finished the last of the rich tiramisu.

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