The Games that Play Us: A Foot in the Door

Melo Afuang and the rest of the Growling Tigers
are almost assured of a Final Four spot.
(image by Marlo Cueto/NPPA Images)
UST Growling Tigers over the UE Red Warriors, 54-45

Once again the UE Red Warriors played great basketball, wowing the fans and derailing their detractors. Too bad coach Jerry Codiñera’s magic couldn’t last the whole game.

UST played well enough in the 4th period, scoring 18 points while limiting UE to just 8, to nail win # 6 and get a 2-game advantage over the DLSU Green Archers and the NU Bulldogs in the race for 4th place.

The boys form Recto, however, didn’t make it easy. They bucked the cold hands of Paul Zamar and JM Noble, instead relying on seldom-used reserves JR Sumido and BJ Zosa, to hold serve for most of the match. Sumido and Zosa combined for 3 triples and 17 points in leading the Warriors, who were looking for another upset after nearly beating the league-best Ateneo Blue Eagles last Thursday. Zamar and Noble, on the other hand, shot just 3-of-14 from the field, including 1-of-7 from rainbow land, for a total of 7 points. This happened after scorching the nets in an upset of La Salle last week, and giving the Eagles a gigantic scare in their last game.

If this “cooling off” is any indication of how UE will fare in their last 3 games, then getting a 3rd upset might be too much to ask of them.

A guy who hasn’t cooled off, however, is coach Pido Jarencio’s prized big man Karim Abdul, who sizzled for 16 points on top of grabbing 13 rebounds, getting 2 steals and blocking 3 shots. The newcomer center was a beast underneath for the España crew, and he looks to be getting fiercer and fiercer every game. Jeric Fortuna helped him out on the offensive end, ending with 11 points, 5 boards and 3 dimes, though he did his damage mostly in the last period. Chris Camus, meanwhile, was an all-around dynamo, taking 10 caroms to go along with 3 assists, 3 thefts and 1 rejection, and making up being mediocre in terms of scoring (3-of-11 shooting only).

Karim Abdul has proven to be a tower of power
for coach Pido.
(image by Marlo Cueto/NPPA Images)
One defining element in this game, though, was defense. UST’s defense to be exact. This is a little unnerving since coach Jarencio isn’t really known as the most defensive-minded bench mentor out there, but the result speaks for itself. UST was able to hold UE to less than 50 points after the Warriors broke the 70-point barrier in 3 of their last 4 outings. In fact, the last time UE was held under 50 was on July 21 against the FEU Tamaraws, which was 8 games ago.

Jeric Fortuna hit some big shots to create
enough separation against UE.
(image by Marlo Cueto/NPPA Images)
Another bright sign for UST is that they were able to force UE to commit 23 turnovers, almost double the Tigers’ 12. Clearly, this Black & Gold five is quite different from past iterations. They have seemingly denounced the rah-rah-let’s-shoot-the-three-and-hope-for-the-best mindset, and opted to go the tried-and-true framework of “defense wins championships.”

But will UST win the championship this season? Too early to tell. Heck, they’re not even in the Final Four yet, but they’re close. They’ve actually got one foot in the door already. Two more wins can seal it.

UST 54 – Abdul 16, Fortuna 11, Pe 6, Camus 6, Teng 6, Lo 4, Ferrer 3, Afuang 2, Sheriff 0, Tan 0, Vigil 0
UE 45 – Sumido 10, Zosa 7, Zamar 5, De Leon 5, Javier 4, Duran 2, Flores 2, Casajeros 2, Tagarda 2, Noble 2, Santos 2, Sumang 2, Enguio 0
QS: 13-12, 24-30, 36-37, 54-45

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