The Games That Play Us: Be Patience

Nico Salva and the Blue Eagles relied on a strong
second half surge to beat the Red Warriors.


Relax. Yes, it SHOULD be “Be Patient,” but trust me. I teach English for a living. I know what I’m doing (most of the time).

When a team as deep as the Ateneo Blue Eagles goes up against a team as unheralded as the UE Red Warriors, spectators, perhaps unfairly, tend to expect an outright blowout.

When this doesn’t happen in the first quarter or in the second quarter, fans of the “stronger” team tend to get anxious. Their blood pressure starts to rise. They get fidgety. They step out at halftime to grab a drink thinking they might be in for an unnecessary nail-biter. They sit at the edge of their seats, one hand gripping a rosary, while another holding a handkerchief for the sweat, or tears, to come.

They can’t be faulted for thinking and being that way, especially since this almost-identical Ateneo roster managed to escape this almost-identical UE roster by just 4 points in one game last season. In this league, there is no such thing as guaranteed blowouts.

This means patience is paramount for any fan, and, true enough, patience surely was tested in this encounter.

If anybody thought Coach Jerry Codinera’s boys would simply go through the motions and hand this win to the Blue Eagles, then he/she probably felt very disappointed with how the game began. JR Sumido, who quickly rattled off 5 points, and Roi Sumang conspired to give UE a surprising 7-2 edge in the first 3 minutes.

Fluke, right? Nope.

UE continued to test Ateneo’s starters even if, for a while there, it seemed like the Eagles regained their composure. The Loyola five uncorked a 12-2 blast mid-first period that padded their lead at 14-9, but UE didn’t waver. The Reds, behind Sumang, crack shooter Pedrito Galanza, and big man Ivan Hernandez, came back strong to trail by just a solitary point, 19-18, heading into the second stanza.

Galanza continued to wax hot from rainbow country in the next ten minutes. He teamed up with undersized, but scrappy, center Chris Javier to keep the Warriors right behind the Eagles. Greg Slaughter collected a dozen markers by halftime, but it was clear the smaller and quicker frontliners of UE were giving him fits. Galanza’s shooting also kept Ateneo’s defense scrambling.

Blue & White fans from within earshot could be heard lamenting about how the Eagles were relaxing. They looked disinterested. They looked unmotivated. They had no sense of urgency. And, well, nothing splendid could be said about the Blues’ 12-of-20 shooting from the line at that point.

Whatever Coach Norman Black said or did at the break, however, probably struck a chord with his wards, as they stormed through the third quarter. After Sumang’s lay-up cut the lead to just 1 at 37-36, the Loyola quintet went on a 9-3 spurt that prompted Coach Codiñera to sue for time. He probably thought Ateneo was on the verge of breaking the game open.

He wasn’t wrong.

At this juncture, and despite the mini-run, the Ateneo faithful still felt a little on edge. The lead should be in double-digits by now. What’s taking so long? Bakit di maka layo?

Those concerns were eventually put to rest by Coach Norman’s bench mob.

After Nico Salva hit two charities for a 9-point bubble, the Eagles went on a 16-2 tear bridging the third and fourth frames. Ryan Buenafe was the main catalyst in that particular segment, scoring 4 points, but, more importantly, dishing off 3 assists. That means he was directly involved in 10 of those 16 points. That run basically broke the bank in favor of Ateneo, as they simply went on cruise control until the final buzzer.

Finally, sighs of relief and sounds of cheer could be heard from the Blue gallery.

If you’re an Ateneo fan, though, you have to realize that perhaps this was a game that needed to be close, at least in the first half. In a way, it forced Coach Norman’s hand. It was clear his starters weren’t able to pull away, so he turned to his shock troopers. Needless to say, they delivered in spades. Zags Gonzaga scored 6 points in that decisive run, while JP Erram and Frank Golla held their own down low. Nico Elorde also contributed well, even hitting a nice buzzer-beating jumper early in the fourth period. We’ll probably see more of him, and maybe third-string PG Isaac Lim, since Juami Tiongson left the third quarter looking like he may have aggravated the sprain that kept him from playing in the UP game.

It’s this kind of game that gives a team’s supporting cast the confidence boost to come up big. Against UP, it was Oping Sumalinog who stepped up in the second half. This time, Buenafe and Gonzaga took the spotlight, and deservedly so. Even Gwyne Capacio and Von Pessumal had some bright moments in the dying moments. This augurs well for the Katipunan five, as they climb to the top of the standings and forge ahead into a collision course with co-first-placers FEU next weekend.

In the meantime, this game should be another one of those “chalk it up to experience” entries in Coach Codiñera’s Season 75 logbook. There are still some positives, though. Javier showed he could stand toe-to-toe even with the biggest of big men this side of the world, and Galanza seems poised to be the next Recto-bred streak-shooter ala Val Acuña. The trick is meshing them together with UE’s other prodigious talents (read: Sumang and Adrian Santos) and clicking at the right time. Hopefully, that happens sooner rather than later for the Warriors.

So Ateneo marches on to its fifth win in the campaign for its fifth straight banner. If one thing is crystal clear, however, it’s this – no team, not even the long shots like UE, will simply roll over. If the Blue Eagles are going to succeed in their Glori5 quest, they’ll have to grind it out and find heroes from all corners of their roster. They’ll have to maximize their depth, and take no opponent for granted.

As for the fans, may this be a lesson in patience. Yes, there will be more games where the favored team won’t necessarily dominate from end to end. There will be more games where the underdogs will threaten. In these instances, it’s of little use to be fidgety and agitated (even if you cannot help it). Just sit tight, enjoy the game, cheer for your heroes, and be the picture of patience – be patience personified. Be patience.

G-Boy Babilonia and Von Pessumal got some burn
as Ateneo frolicked in the fourth quarter.

Zags Gonzaga and Ryan Buenage teamed up to break the game
open in the third period.


AdMU 68 – Slaughter 14, Ravena 12, Gonzaga 9, Tiongson 7, Salva 7, Buenafe 6, Sumalinog 2, Pessumal 2, Golla 2, Erram 2, Elorde 2, Capacio 2, Chua 1, Porter 0, Lim 0, Babilonia 0
UE 51 – Javier 16, Galanza 12, Sumang 10, Hernandez 6, Sumido 5, Belleza 2, Alberto 0, Villarias 0, Valdez 0, Santos 0, Razon 0, Olayon 0, Mena 0, Flores 0, Duran 0, Duncil 0
QS: 19-18, 37-34, 54-39, 68-51
Notable Performers:
Kiefer Ravena (AdMU) – 12pts, 5asts, 3rebs, 1stl
Ryan Buenafe (AdMU) – 6pts, 6rebs, 4asts, 1stl
Pedrito Galanza (UE) – 12pts, 6rebs, 3 treys, 2asts, 1blk

*Images by Philip Sison/
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