The Games That Play Us: Wear Ateneo

That title pertains to both the Blue Eagle faithful and the Blue Eagle foes.

For the Blue Eagle fans who, despite losing back-to-back games and the injury to Kiefer Ravena, believe that a season can still be won, wear Ateneo wherever you go. Keep the team in your prayers. Hope that they have not abandoned hope. Have faith in their collective strength and fortitude.

For the Blue Eagle foes who are surely salivating at the thought of not only dethroning the champs, but doing so in vicious fashion, know that it will take a lot more for the Eagles to get swept by the wayside. Know that for the Blues to be vanquished, you have to wear Ateneo down. If the first two defeats of the Loyolans have proven anything at all, then let this be it – you cannot beat the Eagles with one or two good runs. You cannot take them for granted lest they cut and claw their way (as they eventually should) into the win column at your expense.

Chris Tolomia and the Tamaraws got win #2 at the
expense of Ateneo.

(Of course I’m taking stabs at shadows here, but what else can I do?)

I like how the Ateneans seem to have found a way to compete in the “No Ravena” void – rediscover the all-around brilliance that is Ryan Buenafe, who was once the most sought-after recruit coming out of high school (in 2008 to be exact).

Buenafe was a beast back then. It wasn’t uncommon for him to dominate on all fronts – drop 30 points here, 10+ rebounds there, maybe 10+ assists as well. It was a little bit of a riddle, then, how his numbers in the Seniors have become seemingly pedestrian – for instance, about 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 19 minutes per elims game last year. Clearly, this wasn’t the beast that was patrolling the NCAA Juniors in the mid-2000s (clearly, he may have gained quite some weight, too).

But, so far, in Ateneo’s first two games, Buenafe has had to be the focal point. Before the season began, it was an open secret that the Blues’ offense was going to run through Kiefer Ravena every single time down the floor, but now that a timetable for his return reads “indefinite,” everything changes. And one of the things that have changed is Ryan’s role.

Last year, Ryan took about 6 field goals per game (81 total in the elims), making about 33% of his attempts. This year, he has more than doubled his average attempts – 14 in the NU game and 22 against FEU for a 2-game total of 36 – and, thankfully, he has also upped his accuracy (even ever so slightly), which currently stands at 36%. He hit 6 threes in 14 elims games last season. This season, he already has 6 with 12 more elims games to go.

This is how the context of the team has had to force him to revert back into his natural go-to-guy role. Based on the calculations of, Ryan is the fourth-most efficient player in the UAAP at 43.1 EFF right behind Terrence Romeo, Karim Abdul, and Ray Parks. If he can continue to play at a high level and on a consistent basis, then I am sure the Ateneans will have more to cheer about as the season progresses – more motivation to continue wearing Ateneo.

Oh but credit to the Tamaraws for this win, already their second in the young season. The backcourt triumvirate of Romeo, Chris Tolomia, and RR Garcia was just too much today, outscoring their AdMU counterparts (Nico Elorde, Juami Tiongson, and Von Pessumal), 50-22. The timely hits of those guys were the ones that really buried the Eagles (did you see that sublime step-back trey from Tolomia?).

For a while, however, no matter how the Tams made their shots, it just seemed like the Eagles wouldn’t go away quietly. FEU ended the third period with an 8-1 run to prop up a 9-point bubble, but Ateneo opened the fourth with their own big run – 14-4 – to momentarily snatch the lead. Both teams traded shots pretty much till the end of the game, with the Moraytans coming up with the last say, of course.

That was pretty much the story for the whole game, though. FEU made its move, and then Ateneo did. The Tams made a run, and then the Eagles did. I believe this is the kind of game the Eagles will be facing in most, or every, encounter moving forward. With Kiefer out and the frontline sputtering (despite managing to outrebound FEU, 51-47, Ateneo hasn’t enjoyed the kind of all-around production that has been a staple of seasons past), the Blues are susceptible to their foes going on scoring binges, but, at least in this game, they managed to hand out their own counterpunches.

And perhaps this is the template many teams will follow in beating the champs – wear Ateneo down until something gives. Wear Ateneo down up to the point Ryan Buenafe can no longer carry them on his own. Wear them down till they crack.

RR Garcia challenges the Loyola defense.

Ryan Buenafe tried to carry the team on his broad shoulders. 


FEU 79 - Romeo 21, Tolomia 16, Garcia 13, Pogoy 8, Hargrove 8, Cruz 5, Mendoza 4, Jose 2, Belo 2, Sentcheu 0
AdMU 75 - Buenafe 29, Newsome 17, Elorde 9, Tiongson 7, Pessumal 6, Erram 4, Capacio 3, Murphy 0, Golla 0, Babilonia 0, Asistio 0
QS: 14-18, 31-33, 53-44, 66-66, 79-75

All images by Jan Dizon/
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