The Games That Play Us: Favorites Frolic

Karim Abdul and the Tigers escape another near-loss
to gain solo second after Week 9.

Fresh from seeing the league’s top team get toppled by one of the league’s cellar-dwellers, both the UST Growling Tigers and FEU Tamaraws probably felt some sense of urgency when they tackled the UP Fighting Maroons and the UE Red Warriors (the aforementioned cellar-dweller) respectively.

Luckily for Coach Pido Jarencio and Coach Bert Flores, their stars came up big at just the right time to thwart the upset efforts of their less ballyhooed rivals.


The team that played better basketball for most of the game ended up losing.

Then again, the UP Fighting Maroons aren’t exactly unfamiliar with that kind of situation – it has happened to them a lot this season.

But there has to come a time when they’d actually win, right?


Too bad that time is yet to come.

When Jelo Montecastro exploded in the second quarter to lead UP in taking a lead into the halftime break, things looked plenty good for Coach Ricky Dandan. His team forced 5 UST turnovers in the second stanza. The Maroons’ aggressive play was rewarded with 9 free throws, of which they converted 7. Despite shooting poorly from beyond the arc, UP had a higher FG% at that point. They also had more assists and steals. And the best thing? The Diliman five found a way to get their most explosive scorer, Mike Silungan, to click. The Chicago native hit 5-of-9 from the field to score 11 points with still 20 minutes to play.

For a while, it seemed like, this time, it was UP’s turn to steal the show.

Despite repeated rallies by the Tigers in the second half, the Maroons, mostly through the efforts of Raul Soyud, Jett Manuel, and Montecastro, found a way to keep their España-based foes at bay. They were able to do this successfully until midway in the fourth quarter. Jelo Montecastro scored his sixteenth and seventeenth points to give UP a 5-point lead with a little more than six minutes left. Just 360 seconds more till UP gets its second win of the season.

As the Fates would have it, though, things unraveled again.

Jeric Fortuna, Jeric Teng, and Aljon Mariano combined to unleash a 16-0 (yes, that’s SIXTEEN TO NOTHING) run in the next three minutes that completely obliterated the Maroons’ advantage. Silungan hit a triple (his only basket after halftime) to stop the bleeding, but it was little reprieve as the momentum had clearly, and permanently, swung the other way.

The Iskos’ hopes were dashed once more. The pain of “almost but not quite” was felt deep in their core. The ride back to Diliman was probably long, and full of guys whose ears were sandwiched between hulking headphones. The tunes blared out to drown their sorrows.

All the while, the Tigers gleefully celebrated yet another escape. As the Maroons sank into self-doubt, Coach Pido’s wards reveled in solo second.

Jeric Teng (L) and Mark Lopez (R) engaged in
a tight battle this past weekend.

Clark Bautista hit some key shots in the
second half to keep UST within striking distance.

The scores:

UST 75 – Mariano 16, Abdul 16, Fortuna 11, Teng 10, Bautista 9, Ferrer 4, Daquioag 3, Vigil 2, Pe 2, Lo 2, Haingan 0, Afuang 0
UP 68 – Montecastro 17, Silungan 14, Soyud 11, Ball 6, Lopez 6, Romero 5, Manuel 5, Padilla 2, Hipolito 2, Mbah 0, Wong 0, Gamboa 0, Asilum 0
QS: 20-14, 35-38, 46-53, 75-68
Key Performances:
Karim Abdul (UST) – 16pts, 21rebs, 1ast, stl, 1blk
Jeric Fortuna (UST) – 11pts, 12rebs, 4asts, 1stl
Jelo Montecastro (UP) – 17pts, 2stls, 1ast


I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Bert spent a significant chunk of practice time just preventing the same play that downed both the UP Fighting Maroons and the Ateneo Blue Eagles in succession from doing the same thing to his Tamaraws. That’s just not the thing they needed after the UAAP Board’s curious re-play decision. You know the play, right?

Of course you do. The one where Roi Sumang drives hard to his left and launches himself into the air, only to fling a pass to his wide open starting center, Chris Javier, who then calmly sinks the game-winning bucket with milliseconds to spare?

We’ve all seen it.


And, admit it, unless you’re an FEU fan, you were naughtily hoping for another down-the-wire finish in favor of the Recto Reds, too.

The ride, however, had to end at some point, and it ended with FEU.

That’s not to say the Warriors went down without a fight. On the contrary, they took it to the Tamaraws from the word go, and if not for a horrendous second quarter where, sadly, the REAL Red Warriors showed up, then maybe Boysie Zamar would be enjoying his third win as head coach.

As fortune would have it, though, UE’s game-ending 12-4 rally just fell short. JR Sumido, Roi Sumang, and Gene Belleza all tried to wield their crunchtime magic, but there efforts were to no avail as the Green & Gold held sway.

What’s really impressive about FEU’s win here is that they did it without loose canon Arvie Bringas (they might actually be better off without him, since he’s more distraction than domination), and they did it with Anthony Hargrove having perhaps his worst offensive game of the season (ZERO points).

For FEU, this win should somewhat ease the anguish of the UAAP Board’s decision to nullify their win and re-play the NU game. If anything, they should be even more pumped to shove that controversial verdict down the throats of Henry Sy’s Bulldogs on September 23. That would be a wicked manifestation of irony right there.

As for the Warriors, there wasn’t much irony in this game, save for the fact that their savior for the past two games (Javier) played subpar in this one. Just when the Reds were on the up and up, FEU just pulled them back down to earth.

Gene Belleza had another great offensive outing,
this time against FEU.

Gryann Mendoza provided some lift off the bench
as FEU kept abreast of the league leaders.

RR Garcia had another awful shooting game, but
as long as the Tams win, he won't mind.
The scores:

FEU 83 – Romeo 24, Pogoy 17, Garcia 12, Escoto 8, Bringas 8, Inigo 4, Mendoza 4, Belo 4, Cruz 2, Hargrove 0
UE 78 – Sumang 27, Belleza 18, Sumido 11, Javier 9, Santos 4, Hernandez 4, Olayon 3, Flores 2, Galanza 0, Duran 0
QS: 18-23, 46-38, 69-59, 83-78
Key Performances:
Roger Pogoy (FEU) – 17pts, 13rebs, 4asts, 2blks, 1stl
Terrence Romeo (FEU) – 24pts, 6rebs, 3 treys, 3asts, 1blk
Roi Sumang (UE) – 27pts, 6rebs, 6asts, 3 treys, 1stl

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