What looked like a tight game during the first half ended up a massacre by the defending champs.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles trampled the FEU Tamaraws, 82-64, and is one game away from achieving a rare four-peat in seniors basketball tournament in the UAAP.
In the history of the UAAP basketball, only UE and UST have won four straight titles in the senior men’s basketball competition. Ateneo will look to become the third team with such bragging rights.
Nico Salva led all scorers from both teams, unleashing 24 points in a 100% shooting performance, 8-for-8 on the charity line, and 8-for-8 in field goals. Terence Romeo kept the game close for FEU, scoring 23 points. The only other Tamaraw in double digits was Russel Escoto with 12. The usual suspects Aldrech Ramos, RR Garcia and rookie sensation Mike Tolomia scored only a combined figure of 20 points, a far cry from the output they made when they eliminated the twice-to-beat team of Adamson during the playoffs.
Game two will be tomorrow October 1.
Should FEU push for the clincher, game three will be on October 4. If FEU wins it all, they will join UST as the only teams to have beaten Ateneo in the series after Ateneo took game one. As for Ateneo, they will join UE with the most number of championships won on the year they hosted the UAAP. UE won the basketball championship in the same year they were the hosts twice, in 1958 and in 1969.
If you think the return trip for these two teams to the finals is already dramatic, you ain’t seen anything yet.
The Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws are back in the loftiest stage of UAAP basketball for a rematch of last year’s finals. The Blue Eagles are out to chase history with a four-peat, while the Tamaraws are aiming to end the championship drought and give Bert Flores his second championship belt since he last mentored an FEU roster that boasted Arwind Santos.
This scenario would have been a totally different story just a week ago, when the Blue Eagles tasted their first defeat in their last game against the Adamson Falcons. Already being groomed to be the deserving team to oppose Ateneo, the Falcons needed to win just one over the number three Tamaraws to punch in the Battle of the Birds. But the Tamaraws proved they will not be denied, and proved a case against Adamson that they’re the team Ateneo should beat in the Finals.
And thus, we have the last two teams standing.
Before everyone rushes to the conclusion that Ateneo will win this one, let’s look at one simple logic here:
Adamson beat Ateneo.
FEU beat Adamson. Thrice.
Ergo: Ateneo can’t be sure with this one.
And, lest we forget, FEU did give Ateneo the first scare when round two opened, and Ateneo was the one playing catch-up before they forced an overtime win over the Morayta Squad.
But this is the Finals we’re talking about. Definitely a lot has changed.
And with word out that JR Cawaling and Christian Sentchu given the green light, things will not be getting easier for Ateneo.
Nonetheless, FEU will have to take it away from Ateneo before they can brag of anything yet.
I’m thinking this will go the distance. Ateneo will surely come out with guns blazing to win the first game. If there’s anything that Bert Flores knows as much as Norman Black, it would be on what it would take to win the title. In fact, one of the reasons why Flores was brought back was to put his winning stamp on a program that has long endured criticism and heartbreaking losses since he last led the Tamaraws to winning the crown. That the Tamaraws edged a twice-to-beat Adamson squad only proves they’re serious contenders.
But Ateneo is still the reigning champs, and there’s hardly any reason no to think they will still be after their square-off against FEU. If there’s anything that Norman Black has an edge over Flores, one would be the fact that Black has never lost back to back since losing to UST during their Finals match in 2006 (a correction I made from an earlier fact that was corrected by one of our readers, Dani. Thanks). He has built a system that can transform from one playing style to another. They’re lethal in fast breaks, just as much as lethal in set plays, and they’ve got two of the most sensational tandem of guard and center, a formula that has been the cornerstone of almost every successful program. The Blue Eagles are also fast learners from their past mistakes. Surely, with Adamson already vanquished, they will put to good use whatever lessons they’ve learned when the Falcons inflicted a loss upon them. And unfortunately, FEU will have to be the team to face that.
So far, three teams have tried to beat Ateneo in as many seasons, and Ateneo went away with the trophy all three times.
Will there be a fourth crown for Ateneo?
Or will the celebrations shift to Morayta?
Even if their place in the standings are the unenviable ones, the UP Fighting Maroons and the UE Red Warriors are facing off in a game that, at least for them, is just as equally important as any of the other remaining games in the UAAP.
Tied at 7 and 8 in the team standings, both sporting 2-11 win-loss cards, the Maroons and the Warriors will close their UAAP 74th seasons the way they started it–a crucial separation game that will determine who will be this year’s cellar dwellers.
UP, already with a better record from last year’s 0-14, is hoping to get a better standing as well as they try to finish their run at 7th place. UE, on the other hand, will try to spoil the Maroons’ plans, and settle themselves with at least something other than last place–something that they’ve never thought of for the past four seasons.
The Maroons foiled their previous attempt at separating from UE with a one-point loss to La Salle, 73-72, who are also wishing to keep their final four bid alive, as they take on the last two opponents on their schedule. But that would only be so if UST will lose both to FEU and to them. UE also had their own share of misfortune as they lost to FEU 78-69.
Literally, there is no more tomorrow for these two teams when they face off on September 10.
(I hope to get back to you guys just before tip-off between Saturday, and give you a fearless forecast on what could be the final standings for this season. Afterwards, you’ll get to read our regular season post-script and final four analysis. ’til then, guys!)
They’re officially off the final four race. They’re tied with UE at last place. And they’re going up against the defending champs and two other playoff contenders.
The UP Fighting Maroons are playing with nothing to lose.
This is actually something they have been used to for four seasons now. But this season is quite different. Ask any fan, whether he is seated in front of a TV screen, or watching it live in the venues. They both would attest to the same thing–the UP Fighting Maroons are really fighting.
They may have given up a couple of blow-out games. But they’ve also played in nail-biters that could have sent the standings to another direction. I’d say three games could have gone their way, and I’d say two more could possibly favor them as well.
But the proverbial “they must do what it takes” is something that has yet to be fully realized. Realized, only by actually winning the games.
I will cut some slack for this team this season, though. The team is rebuilding with a new system under a new coach. And despite their good pre-season, the real gelling on the court during the season has yet to reap dividends for them, perhaps another season or two. Mike Gamboa and Miggy Maniego are set to leave the team this season, but they’re not leaving without a couple of guys who can step up and take the vacancies they will be leaving. A few more good scouting in the off-season, and a strengthening of the system by Coach Ricky Dandan, and I believe UP will do a lot better next season. They already did this season.
And I don’t believe in jinxes.