UAAP Jrs.: Abarrientos wasn't missing another shot at toppling Sotto, Ateneo

Philip Matel on Nov 25, 2018 09:00 PM
Abarrientos wasn't missing another shot at toppling Ateneo
Even RJ Abarrientos could not believe what he had just done to defending champion Ateneo

Being the main man of the FEU Baby Tamaraws, RJ Abarrientos was given the honor by coach Allan Albano in sealing the deal for their team up against defending champion Ateneo in the UAAP Season 81 juniors basketball tournament.

Tied at 70 and with 5.8 seconds left in regulation, time and opportunity was on the Baby Tams' side. 

As Abarrientos, the nephew of FEU legend 'Flying A' Johnny, got the ball, he launched the ball as soon as he saw daylight.

His game-winner was badly missed, misfiring to the right side of the inner square of the backboard, nowhere near the rim just as time expired

"Nakakadismaya siyempre. Kasi malaki yung kumpiyansa ni Coach Allan sa akin na ibigay yung ganoong tira, mga crucial shots. Pero okay lang, at least natututo ako sa mga tira sa mga games," the guard shared.

Perhaps, it was his bum left thigh that bothered him, a left muscle strain that pained him. It had led the spry 5 foot 8 guard to be subbed and and out of the game.

But as the extra five minutes came, he became a new man - or more pointedly, he became the good, old RJ Abarrientos.

With game tied at 72, two minutes removed from the extra period, the sharpshooter hit Ateneo's Gio Chiu with a fake pass multiple times before going to the give-and-go with Chiolo Añunuevo.

As a result of the brillant play, he launched a three from the right wing to give FEU the 75-72 lead.

In the very next possession for the Baby Tams, the ball landed in Abarrientos' hands following a miss from teammate RR Tolentino. From there, Abarrientos went to the left, flung, and swished a corner triple to build a 78-72 cushion.

The defending champs managed to cut the lead to one, 78-77, but Abarrientos knew he was hot, and simply launched it again from beyond the arc.


Just 20 seconds later, FEU's shining star put the icing on the cake courtesy of his 12th straight point, another triple, to give his side an 84-77 lead with 44 ticks remaining.

For Abarrientos, he himself was amazed of what had transpired, since he was virtually playing on one leg.

"Halos 'di ko ine-expect yung mangyayari noong overtime eh. Syempre nandoon yung mentality ko na sabi sa akin ng mga coaches ko na, 'RJ, ready ka lang. Hindi ka magagamit nang matagal pero ready ka lang. Dahil sa spasms, umaangat [yung muscles] sa legs ko," said the guard, who finished with 28 points in the tight contest.

The leader of the squad said that change needed to start with him for them to even have a shot at toppling the defending champion Blue Eaglets - so he just left it all out on the floor.

Even Albano was impressed by his ward's selfess effort, and praised him leading the pack to their second win of the season.

"Si RJ, gusto niya maglaro talaga, gusto niya manalo, sa practice pa lang kita mo na sa mga mata niya gustong-gusto niya manalo nagkataon lang na meron siyang injury hindi ko ginamit ng todo. So nung ginamit ko siya  at least nakapagpahinga siya. Hats off kay RJ Abarrientos."

Follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary.

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