In the minutes where it mattered the most, RR Garcia suddenly became RR Garcia.
With his team down by 16 in the final 5 minutes of the fourth quarter, the reigning MVP exploded for 18 of his 25 points to lift the FEU Tamaraws past the UP Fighting Maroons, 59-53, in their second round rematch at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Having lead for the entire second and third quarters, the Maroons were caught off-guard as Garcia sparked an 8-0 run, courtesy of quick jumpers, sneaky lay-ups and killer threes. UP Head Coach Ricky Dandan called for time-out to ice his players and douse the heat from the Tams, but the adjustments wasn’t enough, as the Morayta-based ballers led by the Zamboangueno guard mounted a tough comeback to improve to 5-4 win-loss card.
Before they took the lead for good, the Tamaraws only led at 2-0 during the opening minutes of the game. Garcia was held only to 7 points the entire three quarters before he pulled off one of the greatest single-handed bail-outs this season. The win gave the Tamaraws sweet vengeance from the first round upset they got from the Maroons.
The loss dropped the Maroons to 2-7, a record far better from their winless season last year. The loss, however, was just as disheartening as the upset they inflicted on the Tamaraws. This was the second straight game that the Maroons nearly went away with a win, if not for a monumental collapse in the dying minutes of the game. Prior to their loss to FEU, the Maroons bowed to UST in a tight game that they almost snatched.
UP will hope to get win number three when they face NU on Sunday.
(I’m supposed to be blogging only about UP’s games, but I just can’t help but hit the keyboards on my laptop and blog about this cringing collapse.)
The only thing more painful than an upset is a win that slipped away in overtime.
Almost heading out of the Araneta Center with a win over the defending champs, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws lost to the Ateneo Blue Eagles in overtime, 74-67, for the opening salvo of the second round of UAAP Basketball.
Rookie phenom Kiefer Ravena became the late game hero in regulation time as he knocked down a trey that sent the game to overtime. There the defending champs did what they did not do in regulation, that is, control the game. For the rest of the four quarters the Eagles were playing catch up against the Tamaraws, who was bent on avenging their last loss to the same team during the first round. RR Garcia all of a sudden became RR Garcia, getting the important three-pointers draining down the net one after another to put the Tams ahead of the Eagles.
Unfortunately, the basketball gods seemed to frown on them, allowing Ravena a good look at the basket for a three that extended the tiff an extra five minutes. Coach Norman Black, ever the composed and scientific tactician that he is, drew up plays that helped the Blue Eagles clamp down on their opponents, and secure their eighth straight win in as many games.
FEU drops to 4-4.
Tomorrow, the DLSU Green Archers will try to secure their third place standing as they go up against the Adamson Soaring Falcons. UP and UST will have an immediate rematch as they face-off in game one of tomorrow’s double header, exactly a week since they met, with UST getting the better out of UP.
Here are my takes on each of the eight UAAP teams, coming into the second round of action this season:
1. Ateneo Blue Eagles (7-0)
A perfect first round earns the defending champs an automatic target on their backs. But with the way things are going for Coach Norman Black and his hordes, maybe this is not yet the season a team with players not named Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter can stand up against Ateneo and give them a serious run for their money. If ever they will incur a loss this season, I’m thinking it will be the other avian on the school list–Adamson–that can do it. But, for now, all roads to their fourth straight championship are clear and without any serious obstruction.
2. Adamson Soaring Falcons (5-2)
The Falcons are playing the best basketball they’ve ever played since Leo Austria was gifted with a Ken Bono on the roster. They are predicted to be the team that can pull off a win over the Eagles, provided they do what they do best–hot shooting from beyond the arc, as well as quickness in the open court. For sure, they’ll be keeping a strong hold on second place by the end of the season. And I believe, as of now, they have the biggest chances of making it to the Finals against Ateneo.
3. FEU Tamaraws (4-3)
The Tamaraws, I believe, has the most to prove this season–that things will be better with Coach Bert Flores back at the helm; that they have exorcised finally the ghosts of controversies past, that they’re serious and prepared for a championship run, and that UP just fluked their way to upsetting them. A better second round will help the Tamaraws settle all of this once and for all. Otherwise, the waiting goes on for them.
4. DLSU Green Archers (4-3)
The Archers are making their way back into supremacy, but I’m thinking they’re not in a hurry, or that there’s really no need to right now. Coach Dindo Pumaren knows the work ethic needed to get the ultimate goal, but he’s patient enough to get to it at just the right pace and timing. LA Revilla, along with the veteran leadership of Atkins, Webb, Villanueva and Andrada, the Archers are good enough to contend in the playoffs, but it will take more than double of what they’re doing right now if they want to forge a face-off against Ateneo.
5. UST Growling Tigers (3-4)
Just trailing the upper half of the standings by one game, the Growling Tigers are proving to be one of the underrated teams that can seriously gun for the final four. The offensive firepower of UST has been working well, and Coach Pido Jarencio has been preaching defense to his players more than he’s ever given a sermon about. The two Jerics, Teng and Fortuna, combine for UST’s quick one-two punch, but these two assassins alone will not do the trick. Paolo Pe, Melo Afuang, Chris Camus and the rest of the gang must beef up on their defense if they want to oust one of the top four out of playoff contention.
6. NU Bulldogs (2-5)
That NU is now at number 6 is actually a surprise for most of the UAAP followers, considering how the top admin guys of the school chipped out a significant amount of resources to revamp their basketball program, including the hiring of bemedalled coach Eric Altamirano and the drafting of phenom Bobby Ray Parks. But instead of proving that their bite is fiercer than their bark, all the Bulldogs have proven so far is that it will take more than just one player to carry the load of winning games. We’ll see this second round if the ‘Dogs will be finally unleashed.
7. UP Fighting Maroons (2-5)
If anything’s for sure about UP, it’s that they’ve improved from last season–two wins already as opposed to a winless season last year. Add to the that the upset they pulled off against the FEU Tamaraws. But that’s precisely the very reason why UP’s losses are hurting more this season than any other. They’ve got what it takes, and they know what it takes to win, to quote coach Ricky Dandan. All that’s left is for them to DO WHAT IT TAKES. Forget about who’s the real go-to guy for the Maroons. We’re talking teamwork, this time around.
8. UE Red Warriors (1-6)
Some say it was luck. Others say it was heart. I say it’s a mix of both that gave UE the win over NU, to exorcise the ghost of a possible winless season for the Warriors. Still with no go-to guy from among his players, Coach Jerry Codinera will have to dig deeper into the heart and soul of his roster and come up with the antidote to their dry spell for this season. Paul Zamar will have to embrace his role as the veteran leader, and get guys like Zosa and Labing-isa respond accordingly.
The La Salle Green Archers just survived a crazy rally by the UST Growling Tigers. Thus, this standings’ picture after the first round of action:
1. ADMU (7-0);
2. AdU (5-2);
3. FEU (4-3);
4. DLSU (4-3);
5. UST (3-4);
6. NU (2-5);
7. UP (2-5);
8. UE (1-6);
NU takes a higher standing over UP because of the point differentials it has had in losing games as against to UP. The last two games for UP were blow-out losses, costing the Maroons a slot at number 6.
I apologize for an earlier remark–second round is actually starting on Saturday already. NU and UE will face off for game one, while FEU and Ateneo will have a quick rematch on the second game.
The top four questions coming into the second round:
1. Will Ateneo remain unbeaten?
2. If Ateneo will be beaten, which team can best pull off a win?
3. Which of the bottom four teams will unseat one of the top four teams from play-off contention (notwithstanding the 4th and 5th spots)? and…
4. Who will be this season’s MVP and ROY?
Round two, coming up!
The UP Fighting Maroons closed out the first round of UAAP Season 74’s Senior Men’s Basketball with a bitter and crushing defeat, 72-46, in the hands of the Adamson Soaring Falcons.
Recognizing the lethal potential of UP to pull off an upset, Coach Leo Austria and his boys wasted no time and possession just to make sure they can pull away as far as they can from the Maroons, who now dropped to seven, tied up with the NU Bulldogs, 2-5. After a low scoring first quarter, 8-6, the Falcons pulled away at the end of the half with a 12 point lead, 35-23, led by their veteran leader Alex Nuyles, who notched 21 points for the San Marcelino-based squad.
It got uglier from then on for the Maroons, as Lester Alvarez joined the fray for the scoring binge of Adamson, who had already dropped six treys over the hapless Maroons. Halfway through the final quarter, Adamson kept the rampage going with a 62-39 lead. What seemed to be a working defense for UP during the early minutes of the game was lost the rest of the game. Their offense, obviously, wasn’t there as well.
Some analysts see these crushing defeats by UP in the last two games (UST beat them by 19), as an outcome of the upset they pulled off against FEU. UP’s second win over the now third seeded Tamaraws had earned UP a target on their backs as the “team to avoid losing to” especially for the top seeded teams. Coach Leo was quoted to have said his fear for the Maroons possibly beating them. But, more than just the fear of earning shame for losing to UP, the comment seems to be more of respect for what UP brings into the tables as far as their ball play is concerned.
The UP faithfuls remain positive it will be a different second round for the Maroons, who are aiming to break the stigma of their winning percentage the last four seasons.
The teams won’t be resting much, as they are already scheduled to face off starting Sunday. UP will immediately square off with UST on Sunday.
And as always, UP will still be fighting to up to their last game.
How quickly can a crashing low follow a once-in-a-blue moon high?
The UP FIghting Maroons found out the answer to that just three days after upseting the FEU Tamaraws, with a 68-49 beating by the UST Growling Tigers last Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
UP marked only 17 points for the first half, with only five in the second quarter. UST, on the other hand, was also having a bad day as far as offense, but got a little bit lucky with the Diliman Squad sffering worse in their offense than the Espana ballers.
The leading scorers for the Maroons during their tiff with FEU did not even reach double digits. Jelo Montecastro led all Maroon players with 9 points only. UP’s leading scorer Jett Manuel all of a sudden went absent, scoring only five.
UST wasn’t lucky also, losing Jeric Teng in the early minutes of the game due to a sprained ankle. But Jeric Fortuna took the lead with 16, trailed by Melo Afuang with 13, and with bench of the Tigers performing better than they did the last three losses they have posted.
The Fighting Maroons dropped to 2-4 in the standings, and will try toavoid tying with NU at six and seven, as they go up against Adamson University on Thursday. UST on the other hand will try to go beyond the .500 line by squaring off with DLSU, also sporting a 3-3 win-loss record.
The last time the UP Fighting Maroons won over the FEU Tamaraws, people were still into Friendster, and Twitter hasn’t been born yet.
Finally, after seven years and several other social networking sites, the losing streak has ended.
In convincing fashion the number six seeded Diliman Five pulled off an upset against the number two team FEU, 76-63 in their duel this afternoon at the Araneta Coliseum.
Jett Manuel came up big in the third and fourth quarters, taking over the scoring binge sparked by Mike Silungan, Jelo Montecastro and Alinko Mbah during the first half, where they took a slight margin over the Morayta ballers, 28-25. Known for blowing away early leads in the game, the Maroons leveled up with their defense as the third quarter ensued, with Montecastro taking care of the offensive tasks. UP closed the third quarter scoring 23 points and with a 51-42 lead.
The Tamaraws looked to getting into their groove in the final period, but UP had already gained enough confidence to bring their own swagger into the court, as Manuel took over the scoring assignments for the last ten minutes of the game. The Tamaraws trimmed the lead to 9 points at 6-minute mark, 59-50. Sensing the Tams might caught fire, Coach Ricky Dandan called for a time-out to re-adjust his players for the final half of the quarter. The ceasefire paid off as Manuel immediately converted a quick two, putting the lead back to 11, 61-50, with 5 minutes left in the ballgame.
Two unforced errors however gave the scare for UP as FEU slashed four more points off the UP lead, 61-54. Montecastro, however, responded with a strong and-1 move, bringing back the lead to 10. The lead actually went as high as 17 for the Maroons.
Frustration soon had its way with the FEU squad Coach Bert Flores was slapped with a technical foul. A few minutes later, Mark Bringas incurred his second unsportsmanlike foul, costing him a suit-up for their game against Ateneo on Sunday.
Before the game, it was mentioned that the UP-FEU game would serve as a warm-up match for FEU before they face Ateneo on Sunday. Coach Bert Flores also did mention that the Tamaraws shouldn’t be complacent going up against UP.
As it turns out, the warm-up game ended up as an upset game.
The win gives UP a 2-3 score card in the rankings, while FEU still holds the second spot at 4-2.
The Maroons will next tackle the UST Growling Tigers, who just dropped their game against the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 66-53, and are tied with them in wins and losses.