The Games That Play Us: Well That Was Fun

It was a great weekend of UAAP action again as Ateneo, NU, and UE, remained
unbeaten while UST defeated FEU.

The De La Salle Green Archers might just be the most fun (or at least most interesting) team to watch this season. 

0-2? Sure, but consider the following:

- Last weekend, their coaching staff wore apple green pants that would make green apples scream, “APPLE GREEN!”
- In their loss to Ateneo, Arnold Van Opstal thought Ren Ren Ritualo was his teammate and, of course, threw the former King Archer a baseball pass from the low block.
- Admittedly, Jason Perkins is a beast, and that smirk after every made basket reminds me of DLSU players of old (Hello, Mac Cardona!).
- And, again, AVO provides some entertainment even after the game by possibly getting himself penalized for a forearm (closed fist?) to the back of former teammate Ponso Gotladera’s head. (

Man, these Archers might be staring at the other teams from the bottom of the barrel, but there isn’t any dull moment with them.

But on to the games now.

Maroons actually play well… for two quarters.
Give credit to the Fighting Maroons. They stuck to the NU Bulldogs for two full quarters before getting sloppy again in the third quarter and letting it all go in the fourth. After about twenty minutes of play, UP was still in this game, trailing by just five at the break (they even led in the first stanza). They were competing. They were fighting for rebounds, playing some defense, and making some shots. It’s like it wasn’t UP at all!

And then the Maroons we all know and love showed up to mess things up in the third canto. 

UP was outrebounded, 17-6, in the third. They made just 29% of their shots, and they couldn’t contain the inside duo of Alfred Aroga and Troy Rosario, who paired up for 15 points in the quarter. They gave up 8 offensive boards, and the Bulldogs obliged with 5 second chance points. At the end of the period, NU’s lead ballooned to 13. 

Not surprisingly, coach Eric Altamirano’s canines hiked the difference to as many as 19 points, 68-49, with under 5 minutes to go. By then, it was obvious the underrated Bulldogs would move up to a share of first place with their second win in as many games. And UP? Well, nobody can say going down 0-2 is below expectations. Sadly. Honestly.

Once again, Gelo Alolino shone brightly here. The former RP-Youth point guard has really come into his own in the departure of the ball-dominant Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe. Alolino currently leads NU with 16.5 points and 2.5 steals per game. Nobody predicted it, but the wily guard may just prove to be a sleeper MVP candidate. Watch out. 

And, man, NU’s frontline is maybe the scariest one outside of UE’s Charles Mammie and Moustapha Arafat. Aroga and Rosario have been on a tear to start this season, averaging a combined 25.0 points, 15.0rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per outing. That’s a wicked two-headed monster right there. 

Alfred Aroga is having a strong start in Season 77.

Jay-J Alejandro attacks the basket for the Bulldogs.

Rey Gallarza hits from long range.

Adamson soars and then crashes against UE
Just like UP, it seemed like the Adamson Soaring Falcons might just be able to hang with the UE Red Warriors. That is, until Roi Sumang happened in the third quarter. The pint-sized former Letran Squire scored 10 of his 15 points in that period, effectively dismantling Adamson’s defense and blowing the game wide open for the Recto quintet.

Aside from his scoring output, Sumang also ended up with 6 assists and 4 rebounds while shooting 55% from the field. Now THOSE are MVP-worthy numbers. This was a good bounce-back game for Sumang, who pretty much coasted in UE’s opening day rout of UP as the hot shooting of fellow guard Dan Alberto was on full display.

Speaking of Alberto, the seldom-used sub from Season 76 erupted again here, nailing three treys on his way to 9 points off the bench. He’s slowly emerging as a legitimate perimeter threat for coach Derek Pumaren, and UE’s future foes better be wary of this new, unheralded weapon.

Oh, but there are just so many other things to worry about when going up against Season 77’s hosts. The Reds are loaded in every spot. Aside from Sumang and Alberto, two other Warriors are norming double-digit scoring: Chris Javier (10.5 per game) and Gino Jumao-as (11.0 per game), while Arafat is ruling the paint with 12.5 caroms and 2.5 rejections per outing. 

Wait, did we just talk about UE’s strengths without mentioning Mammie that much? Again, this team is hella scary. No wonder they’re also at 2-0.

As for Adamson, well, you know you’re not exactly in title contention when your leading scorers are Jansen Rios and Ced Trollano. #justsaying

Ced Trollano goes up strong for Adamson.

Charles Mammie dominates in the paint.

Roi Sumang put the game away in the third quarter.

There goes that man, Kevin Ferrer
After Mac Belo’s two free throws gave FEU a five-point edge with about 6 minutes to go in this game, it seemed like UST was suffering through another meltdown. The Growling Tigers led for much of this contest, only to see the Tamaraws pounce on every mistake and take the initiative in the payoff period. 

UST went scoreless for the first 4 minutes of the fourth till Kevin Ferrer, who’s tagged to have a breakout season this year, took it upon himself to carry the Comeback Cats on his scrawny shoulders.

Ferrer scored UST’s first points of the final frame, trimming the deficit to three, before teammates Kent Lao and Karim Abdul scored their own buckets to keep the Tigers within striking distance of FEU. Ferrer then hit his first three of the match with a little more than two minutes to go, giving the Goldies a slim 64-62 advantage. He would extend this, however, by hitting his second and last trifecta of the game a few seconds later for a 5-point cushion heading into the dying moments. 

Russel Escoto, back after missing Season 76, kept FEU in the game with his own three at the 1:41 mark, but that turned out to be the Tams’ last basket.

Ed Daquioag found Kent Lao for the game’s final two points with about 28 ticks to go to peg the final count, 69-65. Like Ferrer, Lao turned out to be a hero in this game, scoring a career-high 14 points in 22 minutes off the bench. Ferrer, for his part, led UST with 18 markers and 6 boards. He did, however, shoot only 39% from the field. Karim Abdul also did well with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 blocked shot. UST needed this win, and they deserved it.

FEU, meanwhile, couldn’t get star player Mike Tolomia going in the fourth quarter. Unlike his performance against DLSU last week, Tolomia shot just 1/4 from the field in the last ten minutes and turned the ball over twice. FEU will live and die this year with Tolomia’s game, and in this one they fell against a determined España crew.

Achie Iñigo of FEU tries to find an open teammate.

Karim Abdul had a good shooting game against the Tams.

Kevin Ferrer lit up the fourth quarter against FEU.

Ateneo has its dynamic duo!
When Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal were back in high school playing for the Eaglets, they were Ateneo’s 1-2 punch. Jordan and Pippen. LeBron and Wade. Batman and Robin. Buddy en Sol. Bert and Ernie (or is it Ernie and Bert?).

When both went up to the Seniors Division, Kief started to play a major for the Eagles, logging major minutes to help the team win in 2011 and 2012. Von, meanwhile, was relegated to the reserves corps as a role-player. Things were supposed to change in Season 76, with Von expected to take in more minutes and play a bigger part in the whole scheme of things. He and Kief were supposed to reprise their terrific tandem again.

And then injury struck. 

Von suffered a finger injury in the 2013 Filoil Preseason Premier Cup, while Kiefer had a severe sprain during a commercial shoot prior to the season’s opener. 

The Ravena-Pessumal reprisal was unceremoniously postponed.

But now, after just two weekends, it’s finally in full swing.

Against DLSU, Pessumal scored 12 first half points to keep Ateneo’s heads above water. He blitzed the Archers’ defense, fighting through screens, draining jumpers, and even canning a dipsy-doo shot in traffic. By the end of the third period, he already had 19 markers in what turned out to be a huge breakout performance.

Ravena, meanwhile, started slow, misfiring on three of his first four shots.  He was also tagged with two early fouls, and all of those things visibly frustrated the Phenom. He had just 6 points in the first half, making people shake their heads and think that Kief may not be as indomitable as advertised. Oh, but he silenced the doubters in the second half, scoring 9 points in the third period as the Eagles held on to a slim 2-point lead.

La Salle eventually tied things up, 61-all, in the fourth before Kiefer rifled in his second three of the game for a 64-61 edge. He followed this up with not one, but two more threes in the next two minutes as Ateneo erected a 70-66 bulge. Green Archer Jason Perkins kept on making his big shots, though, to keep DLSU within striking distance before Ateneo’s undersized frontline of Arvin Tolentino and Ponso Gotladera conspired to give the Eagles their first double-digit lead, 82-71, with barely 3 minutes left on the clock.

At that point, Ravena made his presence felt again, hitting his fifth and final three-point bomb of the game with 2:17 to go to give the Katipunan five its biggest lead, 85-71. 

It was an awesome sight to see Von and Kief be the leaders of the Blue and White again.

I guess high school never ends, huh? Awesome.

Jason Perkins's monster game went down the drain.

Von Pessumal stepped up big time for Ateneo.

Wow, Arvin Tolentino can grab rebounds and Hack-a-Ponso
After opening weekend, it was pretty obvious Arvin Tolentino could score. This is a guy built for buckets. He can put the ball on the floor, he can (and likes to) shoot from long range, and he’s more than decent around the basket. He’s an offensive package still humming and not yet fully unleashed.

He also had ZERO rebounds against Adamson (ADAMSON!), and that was more than a little worrisome considering he’s listed as 6’5 and will generally be Ateneo’s starting PF and small-ball center.

Against the Archers, however, Tolentino cleaned glass. Ironically, against a team much taller than Adamson, Tolentino grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds (5 on the offensive end). Now from 0.0 rebounds per game, he’s up to 5.0 rebounds per game. And did I mention his two blocked shots? All of a sudden, the top Rookie of the Year candidate doesn’t only score, he can rebound and defend, too. 

This early, we can already peg him as the gift that keeps on giving.

And speaking about gifts, what a gift it was for Ponso Gotladera to have the opportunity to drop 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks on his former team. He played 31 minutes in all, shooting 6/7 from the field and 5/10 from the line. Coach Juno Sauler of La Salle turned to the unpopular Hack-a-player tactic in the final three minutes in an effort to stifle Ateneo’s momentum and cut the deficit bit by bit, but Ponso proved up to the task, making enough free throws to keep the Archers at bay.

And though he probably won’t openly (read: publicly) admit it, Ponso was likely feeling elated at how he performed against the Greenies. I mean, it’s not everyday someone registers a near-double-double against the 6’9 AVO, who, by the way, tallied a solid 10 points, 9 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 3 turnovers (counting that wayward pass earlier described).

Can we expect BOTH Arvin and Ponso to lay this way moving forward? Hmmm… maybe let’s not get way ahead of ourselves, but, hey, I like what I’m seeing.

Arvin Tolentino proved he's more than just a scorer.

All images by Jan Dizon/

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