WHAT IF: Marlou Aquino stayed at Adamson to battle season sweep-seeking UST in 1993October 27, 2017
* photo caption: Marlou Aquino (center) with fellow PBA cagers Kenneth Duremdes who both served as coaches of the Adamson Men's Basketball Team
by Gerry Plaza
Marlou Aquino was the rising dominant center in the UAAP since debuting in 1990 and bit by bit he was slowly eclipsing the likes of Zandro Limpot of La Salle and Dennis Espino of UST in the battle of the big men.
Season 55 was the apex of his rise as the King Falcon of Adamson University—landing in the 1992 Finals against the FEU Tamaraws. The Tams, led by Johnny Abarrientos, were reeling off a controversial awarding of a UAAP title without winning it in a game after La Salle refused a replay of their won 1991 Finals game due to a technical oversight.
Thus, it was a team hungry for its only second title in the UAAP against another fiercely proving themselves amid the brickbats.
But despite having the “Twin Towers” of Aquino and EJ Feihl, with a rookie named Kenneth Duremdes in the wings, the twice-to-beat frontrunner Falcons succumbed to the rampaging Tamaraws in two Finals games—69-59 in Game 1 and 94-83 in Game 2 for the Morayta-based ballclub’s vindication.
Devastating turn of events
While they did prove they were championship-caliber despite the loss with Aquino, Feihl and Giovanni Pineda in the frontline with a rising Duremdes slowly finding his mark and targeting a title run the next year, the Falcons faced a devastating turn of events.
Aquino decided to bolt the team and transferred to UE. He had since not played collegiate ball and those developments led to Adamson’s one-year suspension in Season 57 due to the school’s bogus representation of the center’s academic records.
But what if Aquino had not left the team in Season 56—the beginning of the UST Growling Tigers’ dynastic reign of four titles up to Season 59? Wouldn’t they stand a chance?
Obviously, they would.
Judging from those confrontations in the 1993 season, it seemed Adamson did not have an answer to UST’s monstrous frontline of Dennis Espino, Edmund Reyes and Rey Evangelista. Feihl was big—with his giant frame of 7’2”, but he lacked the wizardry of Aquino in the paint. Aquino’s shiftiness and offensive might, aside from his defensive skills, would make Espino think twice barreling to the basket or soar for a rebound.
Had Aquino been there, Feihl and Pineda would have offered stiff resistance against Reyes and Evangelista, while Duremdes would certainly make scoring difficult for Udoy Belmonte, who was virtually uncontested in his perimeter streaks.
And of course, Duremdes and Aquino, with marksman Roy Literal, would certainly score big, leaving their opponents bite the dust.
With the 6’9” Aquino in its lineup, Adamson would offer a towering threat that could have bamboozled the Tigers’ sweep at least. Coach Orly Bauzon would certainly have his head up high in having a team that could have won the title.
But the difference would lie in the UST backcourt, with Bal David, Patrick Fran, Siot Tanquincen and Henry Ong clearly showing an advantage over Literal and Gerardo Hipolito.
Thus, it will be one balanced match-up that will really go the distance. And by the looks of it, Adamson could even have a slight upper hand given their Finals experience the previous year and Aquino’s on-court maturity.
Down the wire
But it will surely go down the wire—with UST still taking the twice-to-beat advantage and Adamson taking their duel to a winner-take-all.
Aquino would have proven his worth in the rubber match, stamping his dominance as he could have pushed the other Falcons to step up their offense and defense. His points, rebounds and blocks would have brought the Tigers in disarray and made them bleed for every basket. Not to mention the individual brilliance of Duremdes and Literal that year.
Thus there could have been a different result that hogged the headlines the next day. But of course it wasn’t destined to happen.