The Games That Play Us: Blindsided

Gene Belleza played the game of his life as UE
stunned the Ateneo Blue Eagles.


Look who has a two-game winning streak!

Fortune smiled on Gene Belleza, Chris Javier, and the rest of the UE Red Warriors as they complicated things for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

Former San Beda Red Cub Belleza torched the hoops for a career-high 28 points to lead the Reds in gaining their second win in the post-Jerry Codiñera era. Belleza hit FIVE treys, including two big ones in the fourth, as Ateneo sought to rally like they did in their first round encounter with the gritty Warriors.

There would be no game-clinching spurt in this one, however, as Belleza’s hot shooting was complemented by the brilliant playmaking of Roi Sumang, the tenacious rebounding of Adrian Santos, and the timely (indeed!) giant-slaying of another ex-Red Cub, Chris Javier.

For the second straight game, Javier received a pass from a driving Sumang and sank the game-winner. For the second straight game, Javier faced the crowd with pride as the Recto quintet suddenly became the league’s most dangerous spoilers.

So how did they beat Ateneo? Was this a case of Ateneo downplaying UE and playing awful, or was this a case of UE overachieving and pulling the rug from under a complacent Loyola five?

Perhaps, at least from this humble fan’s perspective, a little bit of both.

Take a look at what UE did right on defense:

2-3 Zone.

1-3-1 Zone.

Make it stuffy for the big fella.

Force Greg outside.

The Warriors packed it in, tried to stuff Slaughter down low, and forced Ateneo to take the outside shot. Ateneo made many of their jumpers, and Greg still ended up with a monster game, but UE’s suffocating zone took its toll on the Eagles’ other weapons, most notably Nico Salva and Ryan Buenafe.

Employing this kind of tactic won’t automatically lead to an Ateneo loss, but it’s certainly better than letting the Blues have their way in the paint. This is what helped UST beat the Eagles in the first round, and, now it’s what helped UE stop the Eagles’ win streak at 8.

Still, even with this great defensive plan, UE’s win wasn’t assured, not until you factor in what Ateneo did wrong when it was their turn on D:

Nakaw play #1.

Nakaw play #2.

Nakap play #3!!!

WTH?!?! Nakaw play #4!!!

Yikes. That’s terrible transition defense to say the least. Let’s call a spade a spade and just say the Eagles were awful in defending the fast break, especially in the second half.

Combine UE’s limiting zone, UE taking advantage of Ateneo’s poor transition D, and UE forcing TWENTY Blue Eagle turnovers. What do you have?


Chris Javier is fast becoming the Mr. Clutch of the UAAP.

So what happens now for Ateneo?

All of a sudden, what could’ve been the win that gave them some Final Four insurance suddenly shakes the ground a bit. This loss doesn’t detract the defending champs from a Final Four slot, but it surely makes their play for a twice-to-beat advantage a lot tougher. They still have the inside track, but this defeat just opened things up for a host of new possibilities, many of which aren’t exactly rosy if you’re a Blue & White fan.

If you’re a Red & White fan, though, then you’re probably blushing all over. This win is a feel-good thing. It probably makes you salivate at what the future holds for a squad that is finding its identity. Big things are in store for UE, especially after they blindsided no less than the defending champions.

Kiefer Ravena and the Eagles now have their work
cut out for them as they seek the twice-to-beat edge.

The scores:

UE 79 – Belleza 28, Sumang 15, Javier 15, Santos 11, Sumido 7, Duran 3, Villarias 0, Olayon 0, Hernandez 0, Galanza 0
AdMU 77 – Slaughter 24, Ravena 15, Chua 11, Gonzaga 9, Tiongson 8, Salva 6, Golla 2, Buenafe 2, Sumalinog 0, Pessumal 0, Elorde 0
QS: 10-19, 34-36, 53-56, 79-77
Key Performances:
Gene Belleza (UE) – 28pts, 5rebs, 5 treys, 1ast, 1stl, 1blk
Roi Sumang (UE) – 15pts, 10asts, 5rebs, 2stls
Adrian Santos (UE) – 11pts, 13rebs, 1blk
Greg Slaughter (AdMU) – 24pts, 15rebs, 5blks, 1ast

Game images are from

Screencaps are from
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