The Games That Play Us: Un-Neighborly

Nico Salva led the Ateneans in overhauling a sizable
deficit against the UP Fighting Maroons.


The Ateneo Blue Eagles and the UP Fighting Maroons have not really been good neighbors of late, at least in terms of how one-sided their relationship has been for the past several seasons.

Needless to say, Ateneo has owned UP in the past five years. In their 10 previous meetings, UP beat Ateneo only once, 68-58, back in 2009. In the other 9 times they’ve met dating back to Season 70 (2007), Ateneo has CLOBBERED UP by an average of 21.1 points.

This means that, in the past 5 years, whenever Ateneo plays UP, it tends to be a blowout win in favor of the Blue Eagles. This rivalry, often billed as the Battle of Katipunan, almost always ends up as the Massacre of Diliman.

This is the reason why yesterday’s edition didn’t exactly go the way many people expected.

First, it wasn’t a blowout – far from it!

Second, the Fighting Maroons were the ones actually controlling the game, at least in the first half.

UP really took it to Ateneo right from the get-go. Despite having similar shooting percentages in the first twenty minutes (both teams shot between 34-35% from the field), UP was ahead mainly because they had significantly more attempts, and they made all but one of their three-point shots. Coach Ricky Dandan’s wards also defended pretty well, forcing 10 Ateneo turnovers by halftime.

It was clear that UP came to play, and that whatever they were doing was actually working. Most impressive was newcomer Chis Ball, who scored all 11 of his points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots in the first two periods. His frontcourt partner, Raul Soyud, also had a nice first half with 7 markers and 2 blocks. In the backcourt, it was Jelo Montecastro and rookie Henry Asilum wreaking havoc in transition.

For one whole half, it seemed like UP might actually be able to pull one over the Eagles.

Coach Norman Black’s boys, however, are known as a second half team, and they showed it anew here.

With Ateneo shooting blanks from long range in the first two quarters, Coach Norman took a risk by sending in Oping Sumalinog, who hadn’t seen much action after the UST loss. Immediately, this move paid dividends, as Sumalinog scored 5 points and collared 5 rebounds in the third stanza. The Loyola five’s other guns also caught fire, with Nico Salva and Greg Slaughter combining for 20 points in this period. After Alvin Padilla stretched UP’s advantage to ten at 42-32, Ateneo just piled on the pressure. The Eagles outscored the Maroons 23-12 in the next 6 minutes to take the lead, 55-54, after Sumalinog’s first triple. Former Eaglet Mike Gamboa would hit his own three right after, but the momentum had clearly swung the other way. Ateneo eventually enjoyed a 4-point bubble, 61-57, to start the final frame.

The Blue crew just played keep away from that point on, with Kiefer Ravena, Ryan Buenafe, and Slaughter taking turns frustrating every attempt of UP to close the gap. Sumalinog scored 5 straight to peg the lead at ten, 74-64, with under 3 minutes remaining, which was more than enough for the Katipunan quintet to hold on for win number 4.

Though the thought of what-could-have-been might sting a little bit for UP, the Maroon faithful can take solace in the fact that their team was very game in this encounter. They not only put a scare in the Eagles, but they served notice that nobody can simply prance all over them this season. They almost beat La Salle on opening weekend, were just one shot away from dumping Adamson, and now pushed Ateneo farther than anyone really anticipated. Someday the dam will break for UP, and when it does, the joy of victory will flow in droves.

On the other end of Katipunan Avenue, the Ateneans cannot be faulted for feeling a little fortunate to nab this win. They were more listless than usual in the first half, and never convincingly blasted UP anytime in the whole game. Was it simply because erstwhile starter Juami Tiongson didn’t play (ankle injury), or are some cracks in the championship armor beginning to show?

At the end of the day, Slaughter, Salva, and Ravena continued to be Ateneo’s top guns. At the end of the day, the game will still be remembered as a win for the five-peat seekers. At the end of the day, they were still quite un-neighborly, and that’s the way they like it.

Greg Slaughter helped Ateneo block the Maroons'
honest attempt at an upset.

Kiefer Ravena continues to be one of the most
potent scorers in the UAAP.


AdMU 76 – Salva 21, Slaughter 13, Ravena 11, Sumalinog 10, Chua 7, Gonzaga 5, Buenafe 5, Erram 2, Elorde 2, Pessumal 0, Capacio 0
UP 70 – Lopez 13, Ball 11, Padilla 11, Gamboa 10, Soyud 9, Monteclaro 6, Asilum 6, Silungan 2, Romero 2, Mbah 0, Manuel 0, Hipolito 0, Gallarza 0
QS: 17-19, 32-40, 61-57, 76-70
Notable Performers:
Nico Salva (AdMU) – 21pts, 5rebs, 3asts
Greg Slaughter (AdMU) – 13pts, 9rebs, 3blks, 2asts
Chris Ball (UP) – 11pts, 7rebs, 3blks

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