The Games That Play Us: Learning to Breathe

I wanted to write this piece under happier circumstances.

In all honesty, I believed that the Blue Eagles would be able to carry the momentum they gathered in their maiden win to their game against UE and emerge with a 2-game winning streak and making a statement that the rest of the UAAP would shudder to hear:

The Blues are back.

Frank Golla and the Eagles stopped Adamson, but
crumbled against UE.

But, instead, I am writing this with conflicting emotions. On one hand I am happy Ateneo finally had the breakthrough win it needed, but on the other I am sad that the Eagles just couldn’t string two Ws together.

Perhaps this is a harbinger of the kind of season the five-pest champs are destined to have – one peppered with tribulations amidst sprinklings of excellence too few and far between.

Despair, after all, is always easy.

But I want to hold on to hope. Hope that, despite being 1-4, the Eagles have more than enough fight in them to see the dawn of a brighter day.

What the current struggles of Loyolans remind me of is a newborn baby learning to breathe.

This is an experience not too far from what I have witnessed as a father, of course.

When babies come into this world they go through a period of adjustment, and one of the biggest things they have to adjust to is the air they breathe. All of a sudden, they’re thrust into a world bigger, dirtier, and more unforgiving than the one that nourished them for nine months. Some newborns adjust very quickly, some need incubators, while some eventually catch a cold or cough in their first few months of life.

Most of the time, however, these newborns are resilient enough to live through the adjustment period and still come out strong and healthy. They not only survive. Eventually, they thrive.

I am hoping that, just like these young ‘uns learning to breathe, the Ateneans are just going through a phase (a painful one at that) and that they will be stronger after it. They will survive it. And they will thrive once again.


Here are some of the things I have seen so far that make me persist in hope:

- Frank Golla and JP Erram don’t necessarily combine to form the most imposing frontline in college ball, but they are fighters. They dig deep and don’t back down. Not against the brutish Ingrid Sewa, and not even against the brusque Charles Mammie. They’ve lost more than their fair share of battles so far, but they battle nonetheless.
- I am loving the development of former rivals Von Pessumal and Gwyne Capacio. These guys used to go at it head-to-head in the UAAP Juniors Division a few years back. They have similar skill-sets – both have respectable handles, they can slash and shoot – and I think they will develop into legit threats as the season wears on. Of course, a little more consistency wouldn’t hurt J
- Our point guards are a couple of the grittiest in the league. Juami Tiongson and Nico Elorde were both never highly recruited out of HS, but they have really stamped their class in Ateneo’s games this season. Like Von and Gwyne, both these guys have similar skill-sets, with Juami slightly edging out Nico with his more explosive ability to penetrate. He displayed this well against both Adamson and UE, averaging 16.0ppg, 5.5rpg, and 2.0apg in those two outings.

Juami Tiongson continues to step up for Ateneo.

- Chris Newsome has been awesome (can we just re-name him Chris Awesome, please?). He has the highest efficiency rating in the team (based on, and is filling up the stat-sheets with 14.6ppg, 8.4rpg, and 2.8apg. He’s already a star.
- Ryan Buenafe hasn’t been too shabby, either. The rotund swingman is having maybe his best UAAP season stats-wise. 13.0ppg, 8.8rpg, 4.0apg, 1.6spg, and nearly 1 block per game? Also making nearly 2 treys per contest? Beastly.
- And, of course, we haven’t seen the real Kiefer Ravena yet. Once we do, once he’s at 100%, winning time should return.
- Lastly, this is maybe the tightest season ever. Normally a team should win about 8-9 games to have a sliver of a chance of making the Final Four, but, given how unpredictable the games have been, I wouldn’t be surprised if 7 wins or even 6 would be enough for at least a playoff for the Final Four. At the end of the day, these unprecedented levels of parity might work in our favor.

Charles Mammie just dominated against the Blues.

Roi Sumang (R) and the Reds came through in the
endgame against Ateneo.

Rodney Brondial tries a reverse lay-up against the Ateneo interior.

Ryan Buenafe sprains his ankle in the first half against UE.

Ateneo 71- Tiongson 15, Erram 12, Buenafe 11, Newsome 10, Golla 6, Ravena 4, Capacio 4, Pessumal 3, Tolentino 2, Lim 2, Elorde 2, Enriquez 1
Adamson 59- Cruz 21, Cabrera 14, Brondial 8, Sewa 4, Inigo 3, Agustin 3, Rios 2, Monteclaro 2, Abrigo 2, Trollano 0, Petilos 0, Julkipli 0
QS: 13-16, 32-28, 57-47, 71-59
Key Performances:
JP Erram (AdMU) – 12pts, 12rebs, 1blk
Ryn Buenafe (AdMU) – 11pts, 12rebs, 9asts, 1stl
Jericho Cruz (AdU) – 21pts, 7rebs, 3asts, 3 triples, 2stls, 2blks

UE 72 - Mammie 20, Sumang 14, Alberto 14, Casajeros 8, Noble 7, Olivares 5, Santos 2, Javier 2, Olayon 0, Sumido 0, Jumao-as 0, Hernandez 0, Guion 0
Ateneo 68 - Tiongson 17, Pessumal 12, Ravena 11, Newsome 10, Elorde 5, Golla 4, Buenafe 4, Erram 3, Asuncion 2, Tolentino 0, Lim 0, Enriquez 0, Capacio 0
QS: 18-12, 37-31, 54-54, 72-68
Key Performances:
Charles Mammie (UE) – 20pts, 23rebs
Roi Sumang (UE) – 14pts, 4rebs, 3asts, 1stl
Chris Newsome (AdMU) – 10pts, 11rebs, 3asts, 1blk

All images by Jan Dizon/

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