The Games That Play Us: Stepping Up and Stepping In

Kevin Ferrer stepped up in the absence of
star guard Jeric Teng.


Any team that loses a player of Jeric Teng’s caliber should be in for rough sailing.

That’s probably why Coach Pido Jarencio stockpiled on talent by getting the likes of Kevin Ferrer and Louie Vigil, two former juniors stars in the UAAP and NCAA respectively.

Both were Juniors MVPs – Ferrer with the UST Tiger Cubs, and Vigil in his days as a JRU Light Bomber. Both were highly-touted recruits, with Ferrer donning the national colors along with current adversaries Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng a couple of years ago, and Vigil spending a year with La Salle’s Team B before trading flood-prone Taft Avenue for even more flood-prone España.

Last year, both guys weren’t exactly the main stars for UST. With a bulk of the outside shots going to Jeric Fortuna and Teng, and with a huge chunk of the frontline minutes hogged by Karim Abdul and Chris Camus, Ferrer had to bide his time. He had some impressive games, but he definitely did not produce numbers in the same vicinity as his high school stats. Vigil was buried even deeper in the rotation, often subbing in only when someone got into foul trouble, or when garbage time dawned on the Tigers.

In this game, with Teng suffering a partial Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) tear, both were finally given the opportunities they deserved.

It wasn’t a total shocker, then, that both produced big time.

Vigil started off guns ablaze, scoring 5 points in an opening 11-2 UST blast that served notice of their intent to run roughshod all over UE. The Reds played catch-up from then on, threatening at times, but never really upending the Black & Gold form their perch. JR Sumido, in particular, was impressive in the first half. The former RP-Youth standout rifled in 3 triples to score 11 points before the break, but it seemed all for naught as Vigil scored 10 of his own to ensure the Tigers would be comfortably ahead, 41-24, by the time the cheering squads had their time under the SMART Araneta Coliseum’s bright lights.

At that juncture, it seemed Ferrer would be in for another quiet afternoon. He wasn’t very active, scoring just 2 points, grabbing just 1 rebound, and assisting on just 1 play. With UST firmly in control, there wasn’t any urgent need for him to explode.

But explode he did.

He gave UST its biggest lead at 23 points, 47-24, with 7:22 left in the third, right before the Warriors went wild on a 15-5 run. In the space of 6 minutes, the lead was chopped down to a manageable 13 points, which signaled danger for Coach Jarencio’s wards.

That’s when Ferrer really displayed his stripes.

The 6’4” combo forward doused the flame by scoring UST’s next 11 points, helping restore the lead in the high teens. All in all, Ferrer scored 14 points in the second half, highlighted by 4 treys.

The España crew simply cruised from then on, securing their fourth win in five outings and a solid grip on third place behind the Blue Eagles and Tamaraws.

For Coach Jerry Codiñera of UE, this is yet another bitter pill in what will probably prove to be a season full of many bitter pills. There were flashes of brilliance from all over – Roi Sumang was all-around impressive again, Sumido’s 5 treys will turn heads, Adrian Santos’s near-double-double might be the key to him finally breaking out, and UE actually kept in step with UST for all but the second period.

Still, all the silver linings seem to drown in the gray of the negatives. The Reds made just 37% of their field goals and missed almost half of their 32 free throw attempts. Their porous defense allowed 23 UST assists and 18 UST fast break points, while their 22 turnovers resulted in 20 points-off-turnovers for the Tigers. In this league, those numbers just won’t cut it. I’m pretty sure they’ll eventually upset somebody, but that’s simply because things couldn’t possibly get much worse than this.

Meanwhile, UST is enjoying its fourth win in a row, and considering they have the lightest remaining schedule in the first round, they have no excuse not to go 6-1. Yes, that’s even with Jeric Teng out for a considerable amount of time.

It seems that every UST win has seen different people stepping up and stepping into the spotlight. It was Aljon Mariano against Ateneo, Teng against NU, Tata Bautista versus DLSU, and now both Vigil and Ferrer donned the hero capes against UE. The one constant has been Karim Abdul, who has produced a double-double in four of UST’s five games, and I doubt if he’ll meet a bad game face-to-face anytime soon.

The missing piece right now is Jeric Fortuna. He’s actually done okay, averaging 8 points, about 4 boards, and around 5 dimes per outing, but with Teng’s injury, Coach Jarencio will need more from his Team Captain. For the Tigers to really roar, Fortuna cannot afford to be “just okay.” Like Vigil and Ferrer, he will have to eventually step up and step into the light.

JR Sumido scored 20 points in
UE's losing cause.

Karim Abdul was unstoppable down low
as UST stretched its winning run to four.


UST 85 – Abdul 20, Ferrer 16, Vigil 13, Mariano 12, Daquioag 6, Fortuna 5, Pe 4, Lo 3, Bautista 3, Afuang 2, Garrido 1, Tan 0, Halingan 0
UE 69 – Sumido 20, Sumang 13, Galanza 10, Santos 9, Javier 7, Valdez 3, Mena 2, Flores 2, Duran 1, Alberto 0, Belleza 0, Villarias 0, Razon 0, Duncil 0
QS: 15-11, 41-23, 60-43, 72-59
Notable Performers:
Karim Abdul (UST) – 20pts, 19rebs, 2blks, 1ast, 1stl
Louie Vigil (UST) – 13pts, 3rebs, 2stls, 1ast, 1blk
Roi Sumang (UE) – 13pts, 4rebs, 4asts, 2stls

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