UAAP Jrs. By the Numbers: Bullpups wrestle history away from Eaglets
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Feb 28, 2018 12:59 PM
Migs Oczon was one of the major reasons why Ateneo was denied history
All of a sudden, the championship in the UAAP 80 Juniors Basketball Tournament is a toss-up.
It has long looked like Ateneo de Manila High School, undefeated in its first 15 games, had the title on lock.
Then last Tuesday happened and Nazareth School of National University emphatically erased the Blue Eaglets hope for a season sweep.
Now, the championship could very well go either way when the two teams meet again for the winner-take-all Game 3 on Friday.
Let’s look deeper into the numbers that got us to where we are.
This remains the first and only time a school has swept the season in the Juniors in the Final Four era.
That distinction belongs to NU led by Hubert Cani and coached by Jeff Napa.
Interestingly, those Bullpups swept Season MVP Thirdy Ravena and his Blue Eaglets in the Finals to make history.
The 2018 Ateneo squad had a golden opportunity to avenge Ravena and then take their own place in history, but the 2018 NU made sure the record belonged to their kuyas and their kuyas alone.
This was Ateneo’s average winning margin in their 15-0 run prior to Game 2.
More impressive was the fact that, in all but one game throughout the tournament, they beat their opponents by 10 points and more. Only Far Eastern University-Diliman was able to threaten them, but still succumbed to a three-point defeat.
Even NU was unable to come close to the Blue Eaglets in its first three ties – losing, 49-69, in the first round; 68-78 in the second round; and 70-86 in Game 1.
All of this no longer means anything now, though, because the Bullpups won Game 2.
This was the disparity between the two teams in offensive rebounds and in second chance points, respectively.
Obviously, both favored NU which showed the utmost determination from start to finish.
Even Ateneo head coach Joe Silva had to admit that this proved to be the undoing of his team. “They wanted it more e. Field goal percentage nila, mababa, but the problem was, their offensive rebounds and second chance points killed us,” he said.
He then continued, “All of those are hustle plays e, that’s nothing technical anymore. They wanted it more today.”
This is the height of NU’s Michael Malonzo who was matched up with new Ateneo phenom Kai Sotto in the endgame.
Despite giving up 10 inches in height, Malonzo outplayed and outworked a visibly gassed Sotto in the last two minutes.
In that span, he had two points, one rebound, and one block – all proving crucial in the Bullpups’ upset.
Malonzo will again have to do heavy lifting as he faces off anew in Game 3 against Sotto who is undoubtedly determined to bounce back.
That is the difference in Kai Sotto’s points-rebounds-blocks totals from Game 1 to Game 2.
After recording a historic triple-double in Game 1, Ateneo’s towering teen was held down, for his high standards, to only 10 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks.
Game 2 proved again that Sotto, at just 15-years-old remember, has much room to grow in terms of dominating both ends for an entire game – or at least, for majority of the matchup.
It didn’t help either that court general SJ Belangel was hobbled by foul trouble and wasn’t there to set him up at the offensive end.
This is the last time NU won the championship.
Then, they went 14-0 in the elimination round and won Game 1 before Aljun Melecio won Game 2 for De La Salle Zobel.
Justine Baltazar, John Lloyd Clemente, and the Bullpups mightily bounced back in Game 3, however, and won their third championship from 2011 to 2016.
This is the last time Ateneo won the championship.
Then, they went 14-0 in the elimination round before Mark Dyke and Philip Manalang stole Game 1 for NU.
Nieto twins Mike and Matt, Jolo Mendoza, and the Blue Eaglets mightily bounce back in Games 2 and 3, however, and won their fourth championship from 2008 to 2014.
See parallels in those last two items?
Apparently, not even history could separate these two teams.
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