UAAP Weekend Recap 10: Prelude to the Last Dance
Anthony Divinagracia on Nov 21, 2015 07:58 AM
...behind the curtains of Ateneo’s foiled twice-to-beat attempt, Ravena exclaimed: “I’d rather have the championship.” Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag, Alfred Aroga, and even Teng, who are set to join Ravena in the Mythical Five, most likely share the same thought.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Final Four!
In just a few days, only two will be left standing. But let’s not get too excited until UST, FEU, Ateneo, and NU reduce themselves to a pair starting on Saturday with the Tamaraws and the Eagles opening the weekend hostilities. Yet while only FEU saw action on the last day of elimination, the grind-out victory proved telling for the rest of the Final Four teams. The implications deserve a look-back to better appreciate the remaining teams’ Final Four track.
For a while, Nash Racela shelved the “one-game-at-a-time” mantra against a La Salle team which desperately hanged on to its Final Four chances. The veteran FEU mentor candidly admitted that the Tamaraws have already pointed the gun at the Eagles even before facing the Archers who are in a must-win situation. Racela practically kept Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, and Roger Pogoy in the freezer and relied on his bench for most of the game.
“My intention was to minimize the minutes of Mac, Mike, and Roger (Pogoy) in the event na we’re playing again because Ateneo will be well-rested,” Racela said. “We also wanted to prepare the reserves to expose them.”
Racela’s ploy worked as the likes of Monbert Arong and the Escoto brothers responded, wiping out a 45-57 deficit in the last eight minutes of play. Despite limited minutes, Pogoy and Belo still impressed with 11 and 10 points, respectively. La Salle for its part saw the combined efforts of Jeron Teng and Prince Rivero ranging 20 and 16 go down the pipes as the Archers missed the post-season for the first time since 2011. With that, NU automatically punched in the last Final Four ticket against surprise top-seed UST. Interestingly the Bulldogs and the Tigers were the only teams to have beaten FEU this season. But prior to exacting revenge on either of the two, the Tamaraws must repeat over the Eagles first. Redemption is anybody’s beef. Just beware of the twice-to-beat thief.
Speaking of Final Four thieving, NU duplicated UST’s feat last season by ousting twice-to-beat Ateneo. The Eagles – and the Bulldogs as well – may draw inspiration from these epic upsets when they battle FEU and UST in separate Final Four schedules.
But unlike Ateneo, which got the axe from the Bulldogs in Season 77, NU outdid UST by winning the championship, which eluded them for 60 long years.
Last Saturday, Gelo Alolino put the underdog Bulldogs on top, nailing the go-ahead bucket in the last 33 seconds of play to ambush FEU and help NU finish at 7-7. That proved enough to send Eric Altamirano and company back to where they started in last year’s Final Four – at no.4. But faith and fate had other plans. Fast-forward on Sunday, the Bulldogs range their paws against the Tigers’ killer claws. NU is expected to bring whatever motivation and hope it can squeeze from that one-point duping of UST in the first round. Backtracking, however, can only go so far. On Sunday, the game is called war.
Ateneo had the chance to steal FEU’s twice-to-beat package with an expected victory over out-of-it-all UE. But the unexpected happened. The Warriors obliterated the Eagles’ twice-to-beat hopes behind the clutch performances of graduating big man Chris Javier and Clark Derige. Javier scored seven in a 9-0 comeback run that turned a 56-60 deficit into a 65-60 lead with 1:36 left. Derige then sank the insurance freethrows with four ticks remaining to complete the turnaround. With NU and La Salle still possible to join UE at 6-8, Derek Pumaren saw the Ateneo game as a momentum-feeder. But all that went for naught after NU hoodwinked FEU a few hours later.
Eliminated but not humiliated, the Warriors returned to the court on Wednesday. The Warriors spelled total team effort against UP to give Javier a fitting send-off and end the season on a three-game winning streak. But seeing through the bigger picture, Pumaren rued another missed opportunity for his wards, who fell just a win short of forging at least a playoff for the last Final Four spot. The wins may have come in a little late. Yet clearly Manong Derek is far from losing faith.
The King Eagle is not just the ruler of Katipunan Avenue this season.
For those living under the nest, Kiefer Ravena is again the league MVP. Extending his reign as the UAAP’s top individual performer, The Phenom tallied 69.60 statistical points (SPs) to underscore impressive averages of 18.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.2 steals in Season 78. Ravena is also set to become the 10th player in UAAP basketball history to receive back-to-back MVP awards.
Yet behind the curtains of Ateneo’s foiled twice-to-beat attempt, Ravena exclaimed: “I’d rather have the championship.”
Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag, Alfred Aroga, and even Teng, who are set to join Ravena in the Mythical Five, most likely share the same thought.
It’s now all or nothing. Happy (championship) hunting.