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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

UAAP Weekend Roundup

It’s difficult to guess what Adamson’s Roider Cabrera was thinking during the last few seconds of the Adamson-Ateneo game. Whether he was intending to pass it to a teammate, or he was heaving it in the hopes of a last second shot, is anybody’s guess. Either way, Cabrera’s awkward toss out of bounds was an anticlimactic end to a hard-fought game, which Ateneo won by the skin of its teeth, 55-52.

It was clear that two main factors were in play for yesterday’s game. One, the winner would gain solo control of second place, and, two, had Adamson won, it would’ve broken a 13-year drought against its fellow raptor school, a 26-game skid dating back from 1997. With those two factors in mind, both teams girded themselves for a bruising battle.

And a bruising battle it was.

Both teams played excellent inside defense, making it difficult to impossible for either team to score from the inside. While the first quarter ended with Ateneo leading, 16-10, the second quarter saw such tight defense that both teams were often forced into making three-point shots, many of which never found the mark. The first half ended, 22-21, in favor of Ateneo.

The second half started with the ejection of Ateneo’s Edwin “Jumbo” Escueta, for apparently wearing the wrong pair of shorts. Escueta’s shorts lacked a patch, the Philippine flag shaped into an “A” form. In the past, such an infraction could have resulted in a forfeit, as well as a protest, but since the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) had changed its rules, the team with the infraction was assessed with a technical foul, meaning two free throws, and the ejection of the player; also, such an infraction could not be protested anymore. Escueta dejectedly left the court, leaving a big hole in Ateneo’s big man rotation.

It might have been the spark, though, to ignite the Blue Eagles’ motivation, as, during the third quarter, Blue Eagle Ryan Buenafe shone, as he muscled his way through, again and again, and Nico Salva came in with some clutch shots to put the Blue Eagles up on top by the end of the quarter, 41-34.

Still, the Falcons would not be dismissed so easily, and managed to catch up with Ateneo in the fourth quarter, and even claim the lead going into the last minute of the game. Coach Leo Austria’s boys probably started seeing that long losing streak to Ateneo coming to an end.

However, it was not to be. Nico Salva got two points putting in a rather awkward hook shot to regain the lead, and Eman Monfort shot two foul shots to push the lead up to three, with about 13 seconds remaining. Still, there was hope for Adamson to send the game into overtime, since Coach Austria fielded all of his players who could shoot a three.

In spite of that, Adamson could not capitalize, as their main gunner Lester Alvarez missed a three, and, after Monfort missed both free throws, Cabrera tossed off what could be a hotly-debated move in Adamson, giving Ateneo the slim victory.

With the win, Ateneo now moves into solo second, a half game behind Far Eastern University, which got ambushed by a desperate La Salle squad the day before. Adamson has solo third, a half game ahead of La Salle, as well as a continuation of the long drought against Ateneo. It’s still possible, though, for both teams to meet in the Final Four, where Adamson can try their luck once more to end the drought.

In other games, National University kept its slim Final Four hopes alive at the expense of a gritty University of the East team, winning by a 1-point margin, 69-68, although that score is deceptive, as it came courtesy of a last-second three-pointer by Warrior Raffy Reyes. The University of the Philippines continued its disappointing and frustrating winless season, dropping a close game to the Tigers of Sto. Tomas. The win keeps alive the Tigers' hopes of making the Final Four, although they will have to win all their remaining games, and pray that fourth-placer La Salle loses all of theirs. It'll be a wild ride for just about everybody, except UP, going into the final two weeks of the elimination round.


Dino said...

I hope NU beats FEU on Thursday so Ateneo will have an easier time catching up with them at #1 (although #2 with the twice-to-beat advantage is good enough for Ateneo in case they fail to catch up). hehe. It's possible, since FEU doesn't seem to be playing like they're an unbeatable team, with their only lopsided win so far being their UP game in the first round.

A part of me is also hoping for an Ateneo-La Salle encounter in the final four. Sure the league may also be hoping that (for obvious reasons - revenues), but a part of me says parang bitin yung second round encounter. I wanna see how they react after that bad beating they suffered.

Another thing is, Adamson (and even UE) seems to know what to do against Ateneo. All games were very very close, unlike the ones against La Salle, where Ateneo was leading by 9 with 4:00 left in the first round game and should have won, and then that bad bad game La Salle had in the second round.

As for NU, they still have a good chance to catch La Salle, although they're gonna need to work harder and be more consistent. There's also a slight chance for UST, although I doubt that. They have to beat Ateneo and La Salle and hope La Salle doesn't win anymore.

As for UE and UP, well there's always next year.

Frederick Tomas said...

Of the wannabes, only NU has a realistic chance of catching up to the fourth slot, although, admittedly, beating FEU tomorrow will be a tall order. If the Bulldogs can avoid turnovers, they might be able to pull off the upset.

Yeah, everyone wants an Ateneo-La Salle matchup. With the current standings, that's still a possibility.

Dino said...

NU actually had a good chance to beat FEU today again, just like in their first round game. Too bad, NU got off to a really bad start, being down 16, thanks partly to the FEU D and thanks to their turnovers. Although somehow, that 16 point lead got erased by NU, although they did run out of gas in the end.

Again, FEU, even if they're number 1 in the standings, is still showing some cracks in its armor, although the same thing can be said for Ateneo in its last two games, as well as for other teams, with no one really showing yet a clear and consistent domination of the tournament this year.