UAAP Weekend Recap 9: Knocking on the Final Four door

Anthony Divinagracia on Nov 14, 2015 11:15 AM
UAAP Weekend Recap 9:  Knocking on the Final Four door
Abdul typified the UST captain’s maturity and growth from a tongue-wagging, happy-go-lucky baller to a two-way player who is “hindi lang puro salita, ginagawa niya responsibilidad niya.”

Final Four play is just a week away. But while FEU, UST and Ateneo await final positioning, the race for the no.4 spot continues to heat up. The odds considered, defending champion NU, La Salle and even UE still have the chance to break into the Top 4 and perhaps topple either of the twice-to-beat teams. Just ask the Bulldogs and the Tigers how it can be done. Meanwhile, the past week have been instructive, especially for the Final Four-excited.


More than words…

Losing to an unsuspecting UE has somehow popped a smoke of doubt on the Tigers’ twice-to-beat chances. But all that was eventually fanned out with convincing victories against the league-leading Tamaraws and the cellar-dwelling Adamson to cap the eliminations. At 11-3, UST still has a chance to unseat FEU from the no.1 spot once the Tamaraws lose one of their two remaining games. The winner-over-the other rule will apply in favour of the Tigers, who swept the Tamaraws for the first time since 2006, the same year UST won its last men’s basketball title. For UST, its last game served as the best rebuttal to those Doubting Thomases in and out of Espana who have dismissed the Tigers’ first win over FEU as a mere fluke. Karim Abdul defied exhaustion to lead the Tigers’ furious second-half rally from 15 points down while Kevin Ferrer, palpitating and all, backstopped him. K-Ferr nailed triples and grabbed rebounds with authority even as Abdul muscled his way against FEU’s bigs. But what gave UST more extra push was rookie Mario Bonleon’s timely sniping. Pitted against the Falcons on Wednesday, the Tigers wasted no time imposing their might, leading by as much as 20. When the horn sounded, Abdul had nothing but praises for K-Ferr who have underscored his leadership on and off the court yet again. In his own words, Abdul typified the UST captain’s maturity and growth from a tongue-wagging, happy-go-lucky baller to a two-way player who is “hindi lang puro salita, ginagawa niya responsibilidad niya.” UST’s hardworking center spiced it up a bit with an intriguing quip: “unlike last year, we had a captain who…” Need a clue?  


… Few words

Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng going at it in a crucial rematch under the bright lights of an Ateneo-La Salle game need little or no verbal jousting (beyond the stands). Words sometimes fare badly to describe the magnitude of this age-old rivalry. Teng hardly spoke but leaked tears of frustration as La Salle dropped a must-win over Ateneo. The Archers could have claimed a much-needed 7-6 record last Sunday but Ravena and his superstitiously “unkempt look” (which continue to spell luck for the Eagles) ironically messed up La Salle’s chances, sending Teng and company to a possible down-the-wire jockeying with NU and UE. Ateneo can still catch FEU at 10-4 if it repeats over the Warriors on Saturday and the Tamaraws lose their remaining assignments. But with Ravena and Von Pessumal still co-piloting the Eagles, Ateneo remains a very dangerous unit, even without a twice-to-beat advantage. The “silat” factor which have victimized them last season now hangs on the Eagles’ beaks. We’ll see in two weeks.


…Lost for words

Yeah, La Salle’s alpha-male of a bruiser just cried. Wrapped in a huddle, Jeron Teng did not hesitate to let his emotions out. But those were not just tears of misery inflicted by an old rival. It encompassed the Archers’ struggle for survival. Few would have thought La Salle will be hanging on to dear life entering the Final Four, given a deep and experienced line-up. The good starts can’t simply translate to favourable endgame results. Teng’s support cast only plays for three quarters. And what if he fouls out in the fourth, just like what happened against Ateneo? Pardon the puns, put filling the slack left by their go-to-guy is every-Teng, some-Teng, or no-Teng at all for the Archers. Coun-Teng on, uh, Teng alone definitely leaves La Salle both vulnerable and predictable. Good Teng (as he says), the Archers’ destiny is “still in our hands.”  Take it from the King Archer himself. It's called self-help. 


… No need for words

Make that 28… and counting. The Lady Bulldogs continue their perfect run this season. Now they’re on the verge of sweeping the elimination after walloping UP. If they do claim win no.14 – for their 29th straight victory since last season – against second-running La Salle on Sunday, the Lady Bulldogs automatically head into the Finals armed with an imposing thrice-to-beat advantage. Except in rebounds and steals, the Lady Bulldogs have practically led in the other departments all season long. NU though is exceptionally menacing underneath, averaging 39.5 points in the paint and 5.5 blocks, thanks to the towering presence of Jack Animam. Credit the rest of NU’s firepower to Afril Bernardino and Shelly Gupilan who have been virtually unstoppable. But can the Lady Archers finally put a lid on NU’s over-the-top game?

Let the arrows hit their aim.

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