The Games that Play Us: Modern Classic

Kirk Long and the Eagles survived a late torrent
of three-pointers from the Growling Tigers.
(image by Philip Sison/

AdMU Blue Eagles over the UST Growling Tigers, 69-66

Before the game, many a UST fan entertained thoughts of the 2011 Growling Tigers reprising the miraculous 2006 championship run that featured Jervy Cruz, Jojo Duncil and Japs Cuan.

And how could anyone blame them? This current UST squad was seeded outside the Final Four by many couch coaches and armchair analysts in the preseason. In their place, more ballyhooed teams like the NU Bulldogs and DLSU Green Archers were favored to figure for the Season 74 crown. Instead, it’s the Bulldogs and Archers who ended outside-looking-in while coach Pido Jarencio’s Tigers, unperturbed by such predictions, racked up the big wins en route to this monumental match with the three-time defending champions.

And boy did they come close to forcing a do-or-die match.

Ateneo built a sizable lead after three quarters only to be hampered by missed free throws and turnovers in crunch time as UST uncorked a rally that featured bombardments all the way from España.

Kiefer Ravena had the last laugh in his third match-up with
rookie rival Kevin Ferrer.
(image by Philip Sison/
Chris Camus, Jeric Fortuna and Jeric Teng all hit treys in a brilliant barrage that made coach Norman Black’s wards pay for lackluster endgame execution.

But, alas, even such sharp shooting couldn’t avert the Black & Gold from meeting their demise as Ateneo’s cushion was enough to send the Eagles flying into the Season 74 Finals.

Again, Greg Slaughter led the way for the Blue & White, scoring 17 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, blocking 3 shots and having a steal to boot. He shot 7-of-9 from the field and finally outplayed Karim Abdul after two underwhelming outings against this same UST squad in the eliminations. Nico Salva and Kiefer Ravena provided some significant scoring punch, too, combining for 25 markers on 8-of-23 FG shooting and 9-of-14 free throw accuracy. Reserve slotman Justin Chua, meanwhile, was a big lift off the pine, finishing with 9 points, 7 boards and 2 emphatic rejections.

Greg Slaughter willed his way to 17 points to
rule the interior for Ateneo.
(image by Philip Sison/
Coach Pido, on the other hand, relied almost exclusively on his first five, who scored all but 8 of UST’s 66 points. They were actually down by 12 to start the final 10 minutes, but 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc, and forcing errors on Ateneo’s end, enabled them to climb back and make the virtual humdrum affair a modern era classic.

The loss sends the Tigers packing and moving into a long offseason where prospects for the future seem bright. Chris Camus might not come back next season, but with an intact core made up of up-and-coming players (Abdul, Kevin Ferrer, Kim Lo and Louie Vigil) balanced with a sharp veteran crew (the two Jerics and Melo Afuang), and the possibility of another Teng donning the stripes (Jeron is that you?), coach Pido can spin dreams of 2006 yet again.

In the meantime, coach Black seems to have a lot of work to do with the Eagles. Though they’ve dominated for most of Season 74, their last two games featured them floundering under pressure. Getting to the Finals is a worthy achievement for any team, but, admittedly, the personalities on this Blue Eagle roster hardly make it fall under the label “any team.” Clearly, nothing short of the four-peat will be satisfactory. How’s that for even more pressure?

But what’s good is that the Ateneans remain immaculate in post-loss matches. Ateneo has never lost two in a row since Season 71, and they would do well to continue that streak.

Certain chinks in the azure armor, though, have revealed themselves of late, and the remaining week should work wonders in toughening them up for the Finals, regardless of whom they’ll face.

A noteworthy idea is this – unlike last season when the Eagles weren’t the top seeds, the Season 74 edition is heavily favored. I’ve long believed that the Katipunan crew is at its best when facing adversity, and now they’re in the midst of it. Based on their second round games with the Eagles, both Adamson and FEU, feel they can probably beat Ateneo. Both teams, after all, have the talent, the swagger and the motivation to do it.

Now that might actually work in Loyola’s favor. It should fuel the fire and should deepen the hunger already churning in Black’s boys’ bellies. Now it’s not the other teams with something to prove. Now it’s Ateneo’s time to prove that they can live up to their potential – that they can pull off two more wins for the most important prize of all.

Frank Golla and the rest of Ateneo have their sights
fixed on the ultimate UAAP prize.
(image by Philip Sison/
Not a sweep.

Not the MVP.

A championship – the fourth in four years, and seventh in the UAAP.

One BIG Fight!

AdMU 69 – Slaughter 17, Ravena 13, Salva 12, Chua 9, Tiongson 5, Gonzaga 5, Long 4, Monfort 4, Austria 0, Golla 0
UST 66 – Abdul 16, Camus 13, Teng 11, Ferrer 10, Fortuna 8, Afuang 5, Tan 3, Pe 0, Lo 0, Sheriff 0, Ungria 0
QS: 18-18, 38-30, 52-40, 69-66

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