On the Trail of Champions: Back on Track

Kiefer Lim hit two triples to help the Eaglets
deflate the FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws.
(image from UAAPSports.tv)
The last time the AHS Blue Eaglets met the FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws was back in June 1, 2011. It was both teams’ last games in the 2011 Filoil Preseason Premiere Cup. Ateneo was only one game ahead of FEU at an even 2-2 while the Baby Tams were at 1-3. Both teams weren’t faring very well over the summer. Neither team made any significant splash in the Filoil tourney, or the Freego Filipino-Chinese Basketball League. FEU, however, showed a bit more promise coming off a win against the lowly Arellano Braves. The Ateneans, meanwhile, were smarting from a loss inflicted by the revamped Mapua/Malayan Red Robins. Compounding the Eaglets’ plight was the injury to star center Kris Porter.
The odds were stacked against the Blue & White, and both teams played true to the cards, with FEU soundly handing the Eaglets their 3rd defeat, 68-52. Hotshot recruit Jerrie Pingoy led the Baby Tams with 22 big points while 3rd year player Gabe Capacio tried to fill Ateneo’s hole in the middle with 13 points of his own. Like Porter, Pingoy hails from Cebu, and he is FEU’s personal one-man wrecking crew (another Eaglet, senior guard Kiefer Lim, is also a Cebunao call-up). Imagine RR Garcia in the juniors division. Yes. RR Garcia. I am NOT exaggerating.

Both teams found themselves on a collision course last Saturday, July 16, 2011 at the Blue Eagle Gym. Again they came from contrasting opening day results – FEU beating the UE Pages quite handily while Ateneo nursing the wounds of losing to the Junior Archers in extra innings. And, again, Pingoy was the man to watch.

The big difference? We had Kris Porter in tow.

Kris Porter was an imposing presence for the Ateneans.
(image from UAAPSports.tv)
Now Porter didn’t score a helluva lot of points, but his mere presence made FEU’s defense gravitate towards him, which made life for the blue guards a tad easier.

Almost right from the get-go, Ateneo took charge. Lim, Capacio, Tomas Ramos, Mio Puno and Jed Austria all contributed in a blistering 9-2 start that left the Baby Tams bewildered. The Eaglets were the scrappier bunch out of the gates, and this flustered FEU so much they only managed 5 points in the first 10 minutes of action. Former CSA guard Fran Asuncion punctuated a decisive 1st period with 2 charities – pegging the count at 11-5.

Things got even better for the Blue & White in the 2nd period, as second-stringers Aaron Black and Bolek Vitangcol conspired with the starters in a 12-5 splurge, causing FEU to sue for time. Things were not going the way the Green & Gold had planned, and they knew that if they weren’t careful the game would become out of reach. Dave Aguilon and Woo You (that’s NOT a typo) paired up to trim the deficit to 9 before Ateneo went on an 11-point rampage that widened the gap, 34-14. It was an unheralded turn of events, and by all indications the Eaglets looked to dominate even more.

The Ateneans, however, fell into their bad habit of stringing sloppy plays left and right, giving FEU the chance to gain some momentum heading into the lockers thanks to an 8-0 half-ending spurt. Ateneo was comfortably ahead 34-22, but it was clearly NOT over yet.

The 3rd period saw both teams exchange blows, with the lead swinging between 10-12 points. It could’ve been alright for the Eaglets to just cruise and be content with such a scenario, but they weren’t done yet. Mark Gamboa, the third Gamboa brother to play for the Eaglets this decade and who was an offensive dynamo in the school’s My Ball team two years ago, sparked a 12-4 surge to end the quarter with Ateneo firmly in control, 52-34. It seemed the shade of the Filoil loss was exorcised already. They even extended the lead, 56-34, after the first few plays of the 4th quarter. It looked as if all was well.

Pingoy, though, had other plans. Shadowed all game long, the Cebuano spitfire tried to will his team back in the game. At this point, he had only managed to score 7 points, and he was nowhere near satisfied.

Jerie Pingoy refused to let the Baby Tams
go down easily.
(image from UAAPSports.tv)
Maybe it was him getting fired up or the Eaglets’ defense relaxing a bit, but whatever happened, Pingoy lit up the last few minutes of the match with what seemed to be a sizeable last ditch effort. He scored 10 of FEU’s last 14 markers on a variety of moves that would’ve made reigning seniors MVP Garcia proud, and desperately tried to give the Baby Tams some life, but timely hits by Porter and Lim successfully kept the Green & Gold at bay.

In the end, Ateneo nailed its first win of the young campaign, 60-48. A few days after narrowly bowing to the favored Junior Archers, the Ateneans can take solace in this convincing win against an adversary many bill as another Final Four contender.

This win puts the 4-peat-seeking crusade back on track, and it augurs well for a season of relative uncertainty. Future assignments, however, will not get any easier. We take on NU on Saturday at 9am, with the Bullpups considered Final Four caliber as well. Should be a rock-em-sock-em showdown.

One BIG Fight!

AHS 60 - Gamboa 10, Asuncion 9, Lim 8, Ramos 8, Asistio 8, Porter 6, Capacio 3, Black 3, Vitangcol 2, Austria 2, Puno 1, Tenorio 0, Ravena 0
FEU 48 - Pingoy 17, Luz 9, Js. Domingo 7, Aguilon 5, Palacio 3, Delfinado 2, San Jose 2, You 2, Estrada 1, Jn. Domingo 0, Estacio 0, J. Hassan 0, Palana 0, A. Hassan 0
QS: 11-5, 34-22, 52-34, 60-48

Watch Game Highlights here:

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