At the halfway mark of the current UAAP season, The FEU Tamaraws and the Ateneo Blue Eagles are tied for 1st place..
After winning it’s first 2 games against powerhouse FEU, and contender UE Warriors the Blue Eagles went up against UST. The Blue Eagles were all revved up.Rabeh and Eric Salamat sparked an early breakway . Then Emman “The Man “ Monfort was simply awesome. Off the bench, he pumped in 20 points (which included 6 3 pointers) to lead the Blue Eagles to victory. They had defeated the top 3 teams in the league. Next up, were games against cellar dwellers. Visions of a 1st round sweep were playing in every Blue and White supporter’s minds.
Then a week later the team was ambushed by the UP Maroons. The Eagles, were flat and overconfident, while the Maroons were playing with passion, and also had luck on their side. It seemed like everything they were throwing up were going in, while the Eagles couldn’t buy a basket. Good bye undefeated season. Good bye 14 straight wins dating back to last season. The loss was not that hard for me to take because I am also from UP. I always said that if Ateneo would lose, I would rather it be to UP. During the singing of the alma mater, Nelson Regalado and I stood up for both anthems. I ran into Patrick Gregorio SBP Vice chairman, and Smart Big shot,who was my AIT basketball teammate during my college days, and he said “ Brad, parang nanalo na tayo ng championship.”
The Blue Eagles have since rebounded from that loss to win its next two games versus Adamson and NU , and are tied for 1st place with FEU. Despite the two blowout victories, something seemed to be lacking from the team, compared to it’s last 3 games.” Parang kulang ng gana or energy.” Rabeh, in particular has been strugling since the UP game. Going into the last game vs DLSU, who have won their last 4 games, ADMU had to realize that The Green Archers are no pushovers despite the graduation of JV Casio and Rico Maierhoffer. The Archers with Mangahas, Malabes, Bagatsing, Webb, Barua, Atkins, and up and comer Bringas are all very capable and dangerous players. Experts will say that ADMU has the edge and are expecting a blowout. I would beg to disagree. When it is Ateneo versus La Salle, throw out all the stats. Anything is possible.
Another epic game is to be expected, and WOW, did we get it. As a gesture of camaraderie and respect for Cory Aquino, the crowd was asked to come dressed in yellow. It was a breathtaking site as the Araneta Coliseum was 80% yellow. Both teams and their coaching staff wore yellow shirts also. Reggie and Sue Ann, Coby, Janice and I were among the 15,000 people who showed up to watch the game. After a prayer the game was on!!! Webb and Bringas did damage from early on. For Ateneo, Rabeh scored early on and Salamat was also delivering. Then DLSU suddenly surged ahead, as ADMU couldn’t buy a basket. They were visibly rattled by Tayshaun Andrada’s 3 shotblocks and Webb’s daredevil drives. The half ended with Dlsu leading by 8 points. They further streched the lead to 11 at one point. Reigning MVP Rabeh Al-Hussaini who finished with 13 markers sprained his ankle late in the fourth period after stepping on Malabes foot. Things looked bleak. Jai Reyes’ back-to-back three-pointers sparked the Eagles’ comeback from eight points down, 46-59, early in the fourth period.Two free throws by Bacon Austria later tied the game. Erik Salamat paced the Eagles with 13 points, including a triple that shattered a 57-57 deadlock for a 60-57 Ateneo lead late in the fourth quarter. ADMU was up by 4 points with 24.7 second left in the game. Bringas hit a quick 3 pointer to cut the deficit to one. After two Ryan Buenafe free throws, the Eagles had a 3 point lead with 14 seconds to go. With time running out, Hiram Bagatsing pump faked Austria, leaned forward and took a double pump 3 pointer. BANG!!! Tie game. A shot for the ages. We’re going to overtime.
In the overtime session, Noy Baclao, bucking a hand injury,had seven points,4 in OT, and had 12 rebounds and four blocks, while Nico Salve tipped in a miss and had a jump hook to seal the victory, 76-72.
The Blue Eagles are set to meet UE as their first 2nd round opponent this Thursday, and on Sunday, will meet the Archers again. Ateneo has to step up their game further if they expect to repeat as champs. All the teams they defeated will want payback, and wil go all out. Rabeh’s staus is day to day, but ADMU had to learn to play without their MVP who is clearly frustrated..” Rabeh has to step up and be patient,again,he is a marked man. Noy, who is doing yeomans work on defense and is crashing the boards, has to be active or assertive in offense, Long, should not hesitate to shoot his much improved jumper while Buenafe and Salamat have to get their games in control as they tend to drive recklessly hoping to fish for fouls. Jai and Eman are doing teaming up well as tag team point guards, while Salva continues to be a force off the bench. They have to find their MOJO which was present in their first 3 games. The DLSU victory showed that the boys still have a big fighting heart, but they would need more than that to repeat. Good luck to the Blue Eagles!!!! Good Luck to all the teams!!!