On the Trail of Champions: Of Downpours and Strangeness

Kiefer Lim and the Eaglets get their 3rd straight win.
(image by Jessie F. Ramos)

Amid the deluge of typhoon Juaning yesterday, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eaglets delivered their own version of a downpour on the Adamson Baby Falcons.
And who led them?

For the second straight game, it was the shooting touch of Lambert Tenorio that enabled the Blue & White to get the victory.

It wasn’t exactly easy pickings, however, and the atmosphere was strangely unfriendly even if it was held in the Blue Eagle Gym. Ironically enough, it seemed as if the Eaglets were in hostile territory. This must’ve been what road teams felt in the NBA, or what most PBA teams feel when they go up against Ginebra.

The design on the floor was unmistakably Ateneo, but the gym was half-filled with Adamson students (seemingly garbed in PE uniforms), and the other half was, well, empty, save for the small troop of Blue Babble boys. It was the first game where the Eaglets didn’t have a boatload of supporters on-hand (the first three games were all held on Saturdays, which made it easier for fans and students to watch), and it was interesting to see how they’d respond.

Respond they did, with Tenorio’s hot hand from the previous match still on fire in this one.

Coach Joe Silva’s wards started the match with a 5-0 spurt, thanks to 6’4” Kris Porter’s under-goal stab and Tenorio’s first trifecta. Adamson, however, was quick to counter with the Reggie Miller-ish William Polican canning two treys and Angelo Quinlog hitting another jumper to sandwich free-throws from Porter and Gamboa. The teams traded shots for the first few minutes – Ateneo trying to dump it down to the big guy, while Adamson content to rifle away from distance. The Eaglets’ lead stood at 11-8 when the Baby Falcons sued for time.

Anton Asistio wowed even the Adamson crowd.
(image by Jessie F. Ramos)
Ateneo was having some trouble getting the ball to Porter, so they had to adjust. After the timeout, the Eaglets sought to swing the ball around to find open jumpers, and the one person consistently (or foolishly) left open by the Adamson defense was Jai Reyes-redux Anton Asistio. He hit three straight shots from the Gate 1 parking lot in a personal 9-5 mini-run that extended the Ateneans’ advantage, 20-13. Thirdy Ravena padded the lead by splitting his freebies before Adamson’s TJ Cariño went on a 6-0 tear to close the period, 21-19, in favor of Ateneo. This was the highest-scoring first period the Eaglets have had in the young season, but they were just up by two, which was a testament to Adamson’s quality.

The 2nd period began with the Ateneans continuing their good shooting form. Tenorio hit his second trey to spark an 11-4 blast that gave the Loyolans a 32-23 edge. Coach Jing Ruiz called his Falcons to regroup again lest the Eaglets break the game wide open. Both teams bled for their points thereafter as the half closed at 36-28, advantage to the guys in royal blue.

Adamson came out of lemontime with plenty of fire as versatile forward Carl Soriano and pint-sized guard Angelo Pineda hit back-to-back baskets to trim the gap to just 4.

RP Youth standout Tomas Ramos was an inside force.
(image by Jessie F. Ramos)
It was then that ace playmaker Mark Gamboa strutted his stuff. He led the Eaglets in a telling 10-0 outburst that gave Ateneo a comfortable cushion, 46-32. Gamboa didn’t score a single point in that exchange, but his careful orchestration found open teammates in their sweet spots – Jed Austria, Porter and Tomas Ramos all found the bottom of the hole, with Tenorio netting his 3rd trey of the contest.

It seemed all would be well. The Baby Falcons tried to mount their own run, but timely hits by Ramos and Asistio (for whom the Adamson fangirls began to cheer!) stymied any attempted comeback. Ateneo ended the 3rd stanza enjoying a double-digit advantage, 51-41.

One curious thing, however, was that Adamson chose not to field in chief gunner Polican in the 3rd frame. They might have been saving him for the last 10 minutes, which would be potentially dangerous for Ateneo since Polican is a streak-shooter.

It was Tenorio, though, who continued shooting the lights out from the Blue Eagle Gym. He hit 2 triples and combined with Porter and Kiefer Lim (who finally found the hole with his own three) in an 11-6 surge that put the Ateneans well in control, 62-47, with under 7 minutes to go.

Adamson, though, refused to give up. Behind Quinlog, swingman AJ Margallo, and slotman Bryan Quipse, the Baby Falcons tried to chip at the lead. It was all for naught, however, since the Eaglets were equal to the challenge. Porter drove to the basket, Lim scored another trifecta, Gamboa hit an under-the-basket shot, and Fran Asuncion made good on a put-back to erect the game’s biggest lead, 71-53, with under 2 minutes to play.

An unlikely blowout against an opponent that entered the game undefeated in three matches. An 18-point hole with less than 120 ticks to go. Any right-minded coach would’ve rested his regulars to avoid any risk of freak injury, and would’ve given burn to his third-stringers, which is exactly what coach Silva tried to do.
But this was where things turned a tad surreal.

A few moments after another made Soriano pull-up jumper, Ateneo turned the ball over and Quinlog was fouled on the break. He was gifted with two charity shots, made both, and as the second shot sank, Asistio was called for what seemed like a phantom foul – an unsportsmanlike foul at that!

Quinlog was given another try from the line, which he missed, and possession was granted to Adamson. A shot was missed, but Quipse retrieved the garbage and put it back in, and then ANOTHER seemingly phantom unsportsmanlike foul was called, this time on Mio Puno. Pineda hit two more charities, and just like that the lead shrank to 10 – in under 30 seconds, too!!!

Coach Silva rightfully put his regulars back in to stabilize things, but the strangeness didn’t stop there. After another foul was tagged on the Eaglets, Polican trooped to the line, but he split his freebies. Lead down to 9.

Gamboa brought down the ball with under 60 seconds left, but just as he passed the timeline, Polican had good timing with his swipe. He stole the ball and ran for the breakaway deuce, a practice lay-up really, which he flubbed! Ateneo regained possession and sought to kill time, but Polican was not yet done! In an effort to make up for his missed gimme, he intercepted a pass and streaked down-court again. Again he was all alone for a lay-up, and again he muffed it!!!

Ateneo rebounded the ball and tried to kill time again, but somehow Adamson regained possession. Soriano got the ball on the low block, hit a short stab, and was fouled to boot! He hit the bonus free-throw that pegged the final count at 71-65.

Adamson, with a little help from “lady luck,” slashed an 18-point bubble to just 6 in under 2 minutes! Who knows what would’ve happened had Polican not missed those two fastbreak lay-ups?!

It was an insane (though, personally, I found the endgame officiating a little dubious) finish to an otherwise well-played game for the Eaglets. They now stand at 3-1, good for second place and just a game behind the Junior Archers. It seems the boys have progressed way beyond their preseason mold, and are showing the stuff that might be good enough for a third-straight title defense.

Lambert Tenorio shot a perfect
5-of-5 from threelandia.
(image by Jessie F. Ramos)

Thanks to the Eaglets hitting nearly half of their field goals, highlighted by our expert marksmen – Tenorio, Asistio and Lim – making 10 triples, we extended our winning streak to three. Up next on Saturday are the UE Pages, who are winless as of this writing. Let’s keep up the great defense and hot shooting – phantom fouls notwithstanding.

One BIG Fight!

AHS 71 – Tenorio 18, Asistio 12, Porter 11, Ramos 8, Gamboa 8, Lim 6, Austria 4, Asuncion 2, Ravena 1, Capacio 1, Ladaban 0, Consunji 0, Vitangcol 0, Puno 0
AdU 65 – Pineda 10, Soriano 10, Cariño 9, Quipse 9, Quinlog 8, Polican 8, Margallo 5, Lara 4, Daguman 2, Barroga 1, Canuel 0, Malco 0
QS: 21-19, 36-28, 51-41, 71-65

*Aaron Black suited up, but his leg injury kept him from seeing any playing time. Props to the Eaglet defense for limiting Baby Falcon gunners Quinlog and Polican to single digits only.

Video Highlights c/o Mr. Paul Daza/Admu.edu.ph:

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