Thursday, September 29, 2011


History Lesson:
Kevin Alas nearly engineered a comeback for the Letran Knights, as twin buckets had them within three points, 51-48. That was far as they would go though, as the San Sebastian Stags went to their main man Calvin Abueva to halt the bleeding. "The Beast" delivered with an and-one play, and then Ronald Pascual added to the tally, making it 56-48 in a blink of an eye. They could have padded it further, with an outlet pass going Abueva's way, but Alas was there to give up the foul. Unfortunately, that happened to be his fifth personal, and with him out, the Knights gasped one last breath, in the form of Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal scores, before finally collapsing under the Stags' offense, 71-62. (Recap here)

What's at Stake: 
  • The Stags are three games away, 15-0, from an elimination-round sweep and will likely be looking to assert their dominance after back to back heart attack games courtesy of Perpetual Help and Mapua. 
  • Letran suffered a shocking loss to the Perpetual Help Altas, sending them down to third place with a 12-3 record, conceding the second seed to the San Beda Red Lions. Beating the current chart-toppers would not only help their morale, but marring San Sebastian's perfect record also means stopping a potential stepladder situation.

SSCR Stat to Watch : Simply put, defense wins championships, as well as key regular season match-ups. In their first encounter, the Stags were able to put the clamps on the Knights, holding them to a season-low 25.27 percent from the field, helped out by their "encouragement" to Letran to take outside shots (they were just 4 for 31, for another season-low, 12.9 percent from downtown). A repeat of that performance is unlikely, but something close to that (see what Perpetual Help did, for example) would certainly key in a win.
SSCR Player to Watch : Ronald Pascual was surprisingly low-key in their first match, scoring just 13, without a triple and notching six turnovers to boot. He was however able to draw scoreless outing from VJ Espiritu so it wasn't all bad. But if the Knights are able to contain Sangalang, then Abueva simply can't do it alone and will need his outside shooting to help space out the defenders.

CSJL Stat to Watch : Hustle points might be the key to stopping San Sebastian. The Knights got a some of that right by doubling the Stags' second-chance points 18 to 9. But despite forcing 20 turnovers on their opponents, the Knights only managed 10 turnover points, the same amount the Pinatubo Trio and company scored off their 14 errors. After scoring just four in that stat versus the Altas, the Knights simply have to get back to their strengths.
CSJL Player to Watch : Raymond Almazan posted 11 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks while battling Ian Sangalang to a standstill in round one, and that's the sort of performance the Knights will need from him. They're in trouble if he falls to foul trouble early, as he's their best match-up versus his San Sebastian positional counterpart.

Prediction: Letran Knights


History Lesson:
Down a man to start the game with point guard Shane Ko out with a wrist injury, the Pirates barely held on, as the Red Lions ran rampant, getting out and running in the face of the LPU zone, amassing 15 fastbreak points and 24 turnover points. Triples, mostly from reserve Dexter Zamora, allowed Lyceum to prevent things from escalating into a full-on rout, they shot 11 of 21 from downtown, but in the end, they still lost by 20, 89-69. (Recap here)

What's at Stake:
  • The 13-2 San Beda Red Lions will look to keep winning in order to stay ahead of the idle 12-3 Letran Knights in the battle for the second seed and the twice-to-beat advantage that comes with it. 
  • With the 7-10 Mapua Cardinals falling in an upset to Arellano, the 6-9 Lyceum Pirates still have a an outside shot at the last Final Four berth, but they'll need to sweep their remaining games to make it happen. Toppling the Red Lions would go along way to helping them out. 

LPU Stat to Watch : Lyceum's first round encounter versus San Beda was one of the four times this season the Red Lions were unable to get to the line more than the other team, as the Pirates drew three more attempts than their opponents, 20 to 17. If the smaller Pirates get into attack mode, draw fouls from the bigger frontcourt players sending them to the bench, and prevent them from getting up in transition, they may have a slight chance of pulling off an upset.
LPU Player to Watch : Shane Ko's averages of 7.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists are not out of this world, but he's a better ball handler and is less likely to panic when the pressure defense comes. What's clear is that they cannot notch 28 turnovers again, and Ko can definitely help keep that number down.

SBC Stat to Watch : The Red Lions took full advantage of the lack of the Lyceum starting point guard, forcing them into a San Beda record for the season, 28 turnovers. Along with fastbreak points, those are two areas head coach Frankie Lim will likely concentrate on, to allow the Lions to get easy scores before Lyceum's zone sets up.
SBC Player to Watch : Dave Marcelo has a nice two-game double-digit scoring streak going on, and the common thread between Arellano, CSB and Lyceum is that they lack the combination of height and strength to stop Marcelo and company from rampaging through the paint. Thus, it looks like Marcelo will be in for another big game when these two sides play.

Prediction: SBC Red Lions

One Day Later: SBC vs CSB, MIT vs AU

A monstrous outing by Marcelo keys in the SBC win (pic source)
SBC 84 - CSB 75
Recap - - -  Preview

Player of the Game : Dave Marcelo could not be stopped by the "bigs" of CSB, dropping 18 and 11 on the likes of Jan Tan and Ian Dela Paz. On the other end, Marcelo also tallied two steals and four swats, as the man in the middle for San Beda could not be stopped.

By the Numbers :
  • Simply put, the Red Lions plain shot better from the field, making 29 of 58 shots for 50 percent field goal shooting, compared to the 38 percent clip, 24 of 64, that the Blazers sported. 
  • As a result of the lopsided shooting clips, San Beda got a 42-30 rebound advantage. Offensive rebounds though were nearly even, with Benilde even edging SBC, 15 to 14.
  • San Beda also got more team plays, as seen in their 19 to 12 assist advantage.
The Other Names :
  • Carlo Lastimosa notched 15 points in 19 minutes in his return to CSB, but once again, he could not lift his squad in the final minutes, this time on a technicality, a supposed NCAA "house rule" that prevents players from reentering the court for three minutes should he be made to sit and have a replacement shoot his freethrows. Because there was less than three minutes remaining when Lastimosa fell to the floor, he couldn't reenter the game, to the chagrin of coach Richard Del Rosario.
  • Garvo Lanete went 8 of 17 for 25 points in this game to lead all scorers, with an additional six rebounds, two assists and two steals to his name.
  • Jake Pascual played the point forward role to the hilt, accounting for seven of his team's 19 assists. He also had four points, seven rebounds, a steal and two blocks in yet another all-around performance.

40 minutes of Celada helped key in the upset win over MIT (pic source)

AU 73 - MIT 69
Recap - - -  Preview

Player of the Game :  Mark Doligon waxed hot from the field, scoring 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting, making all five of his two-point attempts, before fouling out. He typified the hot shooting of the Chiefs in today's outing.

By the Numbers :
  • While the margin was not as bad as the San Beda - St. Benilde game, the Chiefs managed to shoot 51 percent from the field (29/57) compared to 43 percent by Mapua (24/56). That's the best shooting mark for the Chiefs all season long.
  • Mapua managed to lose despite getting 14 more free throw attempts (making 10 more than Arellano) and tripling the amount of second chance points the Chiefs produced, 18 to 6, courtesy of a 22 to 5 offensive rebound advantage. 
  • The Cardinals continue to shoot poorly from downtown, this time with a 2 for 13 clip from outside the arc. In the past three games, they're just 7 of 42 on three-pointers, or 17 percent. Arellano on the other hand, was 6 for 19, with five different players making triples.
The Other Names :
  • Allan Mangahas did his best again to try to single-handedly carry his team, scoring 18 points, 13 in th ethird quarter, and pulling down 11 rebounds but it wasn't enough. 
  • As mentioned, Andrian Celada played the entire game and turned in a game-high 21 points as a result. Mapua threw various defenders on him, ranging from Kenneth Ighalo, Andretti Stevens and Jumel Chien, but none were effective. In my opinion, they should have tried sticking Nimes onto him as they have similar builds and similar games.
  • Yousef Taha had a miserable outing. On paper, 10 points and six rebounds is already pretty poor, considering he played a team-high 33 minutes and was up against smaller defenders, but he was just 2 for 8 from the field, with the remaining six points coming on a perfect stint at the line. Then he compounded matters by turning the ball over a team-high seven times as well. Clearly that's nothing like the dominant performance many figured he would have based on his preseason outings. 

NCAA Picking Record: 57-21-2

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


History Lesson:
A back and forth duel between these two teams made for a tense fourth quarter, as both sides continued to exchange the lead late in the game. Off their last timeout, the Cardinals went to Yousef Taha who scored on a fade-away shot down low, tying things at 70-all. Using their last timeout, Arellano went to Vergel Zulueta who missed on his drive, giving the ball back to Mapua. Timely usage of their fouls to give forced MIT to inbound with seconds to go, but on the last deadball, the Cardinals inserted Allan Mangahas, who was unaffected by his long cooling period riding the pine in the fourth. "The Snake" caught the inbounds from Jonathan Banal and calmly launched a triple that connected, winning the game for his team, 73-70. (Recap here)

What's at Stake:
  • Tied with the JRU Heavy Bombers as both teams sport 7-9 records, anything Mapua can get to build separation will be vital in the battle for the fourth seed in the standings. 
  • The Arellano Chiefs are out of the running with a 5-11 record (mathematically they're alive, but the scenario they need requires everyone ahead of them losing), and so will have to be content with playing spoiler against a team that escaped on the last possession in their first round encounter.

MIT Stat to Watch : The Cardinals conceded 21 turnovers to the Arellano Chiefs, allowing them to score 29 turnover points, the most Mapua has given up this season. Those errors allowed Arellano to keep things close, and so Mapua needs to be more careful with the ball. They committed a season-low 10 versus EAC and as such, the coaching staff of the Cardinals will be hoping that trend continues.
MIT Player to Watch : Yousef Taha helped dominate the Arellano interior, to the tune of 17 points and 15 rebounds, but the big man turned it over a season-high nine times in the process. The Cardinals will likely turn to him once more, but better post positioning and entry passes from the MIT guards could go a long way to curing Taha's butter fingers.

AU Stat to Watch : The Chiefs found their big men rocked by the post play of Mapua. Starting center Prince Caperal fouled out, But Andrian Celada (four fouls), Christian Palma (four fouls) and Gerald Lapuz (three fouls) all drew copious whistles from the refs as well, leading to a 26-8 MIT advantage in charities. With Lapuz likely to not play again due to having been drafted in the PBA, that's one less interior player to throw at the Cardinal bigs.
AU Player to Watch : With Andrian Celada catching fire once again, Vergel Zulueta has taken a backseat in terms of scoring, failing to go over 10 points in two out of the last three games (Just six points versus JRU and two against San Beda). Obviously, having both of them making shots is the ideal, but he can also fill the role of decoy, what with his average of 2.6 assists.

Prediction: MIT Cardinals 


History Lesson:
San Beda escaped a huge potential upset, after Baser Amer missed two charities with 8.9 seconds on the clock. On the previous possessions, CSB unleashed a 7-2 run that brought them to within a point, 79-78, and now their fate was in their hands. Streaking down from the right-side win, Carlo Lastimosa was able to get a floater up in time to beat the buzzer over Amer, but unfortunately, the shot had a bit too much mustard on it, allowing the Red Lions to breathe a huge sigh of relief. (Recap here)

What's at Stake:
  • At 12-2, the Red Lions were able to leap ahead of the 12-3 Letran Knights, taking a half-game lead over them in the hunt for the second seed and the twice to beat advantage that comes with it. A win here would serve to further tighten their grip on the spot, before they gear up to end the elimination round against them and the Stags.
  • The 5-9 CSB Blazers face an uphill climb to jump back into the hunt for the fourth seed in the standings, with three teams, JRU, MIT and LPU all ahead of them. They do have less games played than the other teams, but whether or not a tight schedule favors them remains to be seen.

SBC Stat to Watch : The Red Lions normally beat zones by outrunning them, getting out in transition before the opponent can set up their defense. Norming 14.71 fastbreak points, San Beda got just seven versus Benilde in their first round game, as the Blazers consistently were able to get back on defense. If their outside shots aren't falling, San Beda will have to be faster in this match.
SBC Player to Watch : Characterizing San Beda's woes in this game was Garvo Lanete, who was a miserable 5 for 22 in this game, for 12 points. While he is indeed their squad's best outside shooter and thus, their designated zone breaker, the Lions will need to look for other options should Lanete be shut down. Of course, things get a lot easier if Lanete wax hot during the game...

CSB Stat to Watch : After averaging just 12 points off turnovers in the first round, with their 20 against this opponent being a high-mark, the Blazers have improved by a lot in that regard. In their five second round games, Benilde has normed 20.8 in that category, not dipping below 15 even once. With Carlo Lastimosa gone, they'll need all the easy points they can get.
CSB Player to Watch : In their first game without Lastimosa, the Blazers got some nice production from rookie Michael Pate, who tallied 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting. They'll need him to continue with that sort of scoring, especially if San Beda targets Paolo Taha and Jonathan Grey for stopping.
Prediction: SBC Red Lions

One Day Later: UPHSD vs CSJL, MIT vs EAC

UPHSD 68 - CSJL 53
Recap - - - Preview

Player of the Game : Jett Vidal led all scorers with 18 points in this game on 5 of 13 shooting. The more important number though is his 7 of 8 stint at the foul line, just the second time this season he's gotten eight looks at the stripe.

The Numbers :
  • Letran simply could not make shots in this game, finishing with a 32.73 percent shooting clip (18 of 55) from the field, and 45.83 percent (11 of 24) from the foul line. They had shot worse from the field versus San Sebastian in round one (25.27 percent), but this was their worst free throw shooting night, so having both in the same game truly doomed the Knights.
  • More worsts for Letran: they scored their second-lowest number of fastbreak points (just four), and their lowest turnover points (four), the first time they scored in single-digits in that category this season.
  • Truth be told, the Altas also shot poorly from the field, finishing at exactly 33.33 percent, but they made one more triple at a more efficient rate than Letran (7 for 21 versus 6 for 24), and they made most of their charities (21 of 26 for 81 percent). 
  • The Knights entered this game forcing an average of 22 turnovers, but Perpetual Help made just eight miscues. On the flipside, the Altas baited Letran into 23 turnovers, five each from Jam Cortes, Kevin Alas and Mark Cruz, and scored 21 turnover points of those mistakes.
The Other Names :
  • Not a bad outing by Justine Alano, considering the big men of Letran. He played 26 minutes and scored 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting, while also pulling down six rebounds.
  • Jam Cortes returned from suspension and his rhythm was clearly off, scoring 11 but needing 12 attempts to get it. He did finish with 11 boards and a block, but he was also a pitiful 1 of 6 from the stripe.

MIT 98 - EAC 73
Recap - - - Preview

Player of the Game : Josan Nimes regained his touch and showed off his passing ability, tallying 22 points on 9 of 17 shooting (he missed all of his triples however, 0/4) and six assists, a career-high. If the rookie scoring machine can add to his repertoire a passing game, he could become a truly memorable player for Mapua.

The Numbers :
  • Mapua simply creamed EAC in the various hustle points categories. They outscored the Generals in transition, 21 to 10, with 12 coming in the decisive fourth quarter, on second-chance points, 16 to 7, and on turnover points, 20 to 13.
  • Another huge advantage for the Cardinals were their free throws, they got 31 looks and made 24, while the Generals saw the stripe a pathetic six times the entire game, and made just half. 
  • All 14 players fielded in for Mapua managed to score, including those inserted in the final two minutes, Darrel Magsigay, Jeson Cantos and Michael Abad. 

The Other Names :
  • Jan Jamon was instrumental in giving the EAC fans some hope, getting his squad close, but never over the hump, unfortunately. All in all, he scored 27 points on 5 of 9 three-point shooting, and 6 of 9 shooting inside the arc. He however did not get to the line, and added just three boards and an assist.
  • Yousef Taha also had an impressive outing, completing the rookie one-two punch for Mapua. The big man had 19 points on 6 of 9 field goal shooting and a personal best, 7 for 7 from the stripe. He also chipped in 11 boards, five assists, two steals and a block.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


History Lesson:
After four games of futility, the Cardinals finally notched their first win by beating the EAC Generals. One could possibly put an asterisk on the game though, as MIT was lucky to be facing a shorter Generals team, as Claude Cubo was serving a one-game suspension. That allowed Mapua to score inside with abandon, forming a 64-51 lead at the end of three quarters. Just to be sure there wasn't going to be any late-game shenanigans though, the Cardinals tacked on a 9-0 run to start the fourth, and held Emilio Aguinaldo to just 12 fourth quarter points, closing with a final score of 80-63. (Recap here)

What's at Stake:  
  • At 6-9, the Cardinals surrendered their fourth place spot and dropped a half-game behind into fifth place, as they look up at the 7-9 JRU Heavy Bombers. Both those teams struggled in the first round but seem to have regained their groove. However, only one of those two stepladder teams from last season will get a chance to return to the post-season, making this game a must-win for Mapua to keep in step with their rivals.
  • Technically winning all of their remaining games and watching the other five squads ahead of them not win any of their remaining encounters will get EAC into the Final Four, but that's hardly realistic. Thus, the Generals will have to content themselves with playing spoiler in this game.

MIT Stat to Watch : The Cardinals were held to a season-low 59 points, and had just one triple go in during their 76-59 loss to San Beda. Luckily for Mapua, the Cardinals were in a similar slump early in the first round before finding their groove against the Generals (from 37.49 percent shooting and 23.25 field goals made per game to 45 percent and 27 shots made). History may just repeat itself here.
MIT Player to Watch : After a pedestrian three games where Allan Mangahas scored just a total of 16 points, "The Snake" dropped 19 versus San Beda, including 12 in the third period, as he desperately tried to keep the Cardinals in the thick of things. If he can keep up his strong play versus EAC, he could find himself on a roll to close out the eliminations.

EAC Stat to Watch : The Generals attained their season-low 58 points going up against the Letran Knights, as the EAC players simply could not take care of the ball, turning it over 32 times, the second game they've tallied that many errors (JRU in round one was the first). The Cardinals norm the second fewest forced turnovers, just 15.93 a game, but Emilio Aguinaldo committed 23 in their first round encounter, most being of the unforced variety. Ball-handling has been a season long problem, and it's likely to continue to plague this team in this game.
EAC Player to Watch : Joshua Torralba returned after missing three games to a groin injury, but he was far from game shape when they played Letran, scoring just two points in 18 minutes of play, on 1 of 7 shooting with three turnovers to boot. We'll see if he's bounced back since then in this game.

Prediction: MIT Cardinals


History Lesson:
Playing their third game in seven days, the host school Altas did not have the energy to keep up with the pressure defense and running game of the Letran Knights. In a game that was close in just the first quarter (17-9, Letran up), Perpetual Help struggled to score, while shedding points like crazy on the other end, giving up 21 fastbreak points and 22 turnover points. All in all, with a final score of 74-43, the Altas were cursed with the lowest scoring output in three seasons. (Recap here

What's at Stake:
  • At 12-2, the Knights are tied with the San Beda Red Lions for the second seed, which based on tie-breakers right now, they'll have to give up to the defending champs, having lost to them in the first round. If Letran wants to keep their hold on that twice-to-beat advantage, they'll have to keep winning, starting with this game and extending to their rematch with the Bedans.
  • The 3-13 Altas are firmly out of the race, but will aim to keep improving on two win total from last season.

UPHSD Stat to Watch : The Altas notched the fewest field goals made of any team this season with the 14 they tallied versus Letran. Simply put, if the Knights are going to pressure them from start to finish again, then if they manage to keep possession, they'll have to convert at a higher rate. They turned the ball over 29 times, giving the Altas a mere 54 looks at the basket. Either the former should decrease, or the latter should increase.
UPHSD Player to Watch : In the past two games of the Altas, Scottie Thompson has been their most dynamic or active player, averaging 13 points and 9.5 rebounds in that span. That's the sort of energy they'll need to play the same pace as the Knights, and his ball-handling skills will definitely come into play here.

CSJL Stat to Watch : If the turnover and transition points aren't there, the Knights have a third avenue for scoring, and that's the foul line, where they've attempted an average of 44.5 charities in their past two games. They've only made about 57.4 percent of those free throws though, a clear area for improvement for this team.
CSJL Player to Watch : If the Letran front court is a three-headed monster,  then Jonathan Belorio might be the runt of the pack, with his numbers dipping across the board in the second round. Not even a boost in playing time brought about by the suspension of Jam Cortes lifted him, as he's now gone six games without scoring in double-digits. The tiny Altas line-up may help him regain his groove though.

Prediction: CSJL Knights

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One Day Later: JRU vs UPHSD, AU vs SBC

JRU 64 - UPHSD 57
Recap - - - Preview

Player of the Game : Rookie John Villarias continues to impress, this time sharing the top-scoring honors with captain Raycon Kabigting as both finished with 11 points. Villarias however, was able to hit a crucial three-pointer with a second left on the clock in the overtime period, shifting momentum onto the side of the Bombers. He also added eight rebounds, and a team-high five assists in just 26 minutes of play. 

The Numbers :

  • It's a mystery to me why JRU seems to struggle versus Perpetual Help. The two sides combined to score just 18 points in the second quarter, giving us a 24-20 halftime score, numbers some teams put up in a quarter. 
  • The biggest factor in JRU's four-game winning streak? It's been their ability to hit outside shots now, 6 of 20 from beyond the arc in this game. They shot just 19.13 percent in their first 12 games, a pretty pathetic figure, for an average of 2.67 triples per game. That's been jacked up to 36.41 percent during their win streak, doubling their triples to 6.25.
  • Even with the overtime period, the Altas managed to set their second-lowest amount of field goals in a game this season with 18. They previously made just 14 versus Letran in the first round.
The Other Names :
  • Jeckster Apinan didn't have the scoring in today's game, as he was just 3 of 4 from the field for seven points, but he provided the interior defense, pulling down 13 rebounds and swatting two shots.
  • Scottie Thompson may be the one to watch in Perpetual Help's future. The rookie from Davao continues to excel for this squad, notching a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, while adding two assists, two steals and three blocks.

SBC 84 - AU 60
Recap - - - Preview

Player of the Game : Jake Pascual turned in another strong performance, destroying the Arellano frontline with 16 points on 8 of 10 shooting in 21 minutes. He also pulled down 10 rebounds, dished out six assists and made a block.

The Numbers :

  • San Beda wanted to try playing a full-court defense to put pressure on their opponents, in preparation for Letran and San Sebastian. The results are...mixed. Though they tallied 18 fastbreak points and 16 turnover points, they only forced 14 turnovers on the Chiefs, while committing 24 miscues themselves. Arellano meanwhile finished with 10 fastbreak points and 15 turnover points, and could have had more if they had made a few more layups.
  • Big surprise: Arellano went to the line more times than San Beda, 20 to 14. Of course, the Chiefs made just half of their charities, while the Red Lions missed just three freebies.
  • The big number was still rebounding, as the Lions finished with a 54 to 25 edge, 14 to 7 on the offensive glass.
The Other Names :
  • Why didn't Leo Isaac field in Gerald Lapuz?
  • Reserve center Ralph Salcedo did the most damage for Arellano, playing 34 minutes and tallying 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and a block and a steal. 
  • Garvo Lanete was on fire in this game, scoring 16 points in 18 minutes, including 11 in a brutal third quarter stretch that saw him hit all three of his triples.

Friday, September 23, 2011

UAAP S74 Finals Preview: ADMU vs FEU

Credit to original artist, image found on Tumblr

History Lesson:
- Round 1: ADMU 69 - FEU 49
Freethrow attempts: ADMU 28 - FEU 9
Key player: Greg Slaughter, 15 points, 11 rebounds, one block

- Round 2: ADMU 74 - UST 67 (OT)
Overtime scoring: ADMU 11 - FEU 4
Key player: Kiefer Ravena, 15 points, five rebounds, four assists

pic source
When it comes to putting the ball into the basket, Ateneo is the better team in that regard, scoring five points better on average than FEU, 71 to 66.31. You can attribute that to a lot of things like a higher field goal percentage, but it's mainly due to the aggressive, up-tempo style of play the Eagles espouse. They average five more possessions, about 76 per game, than FEU's 71, getting five more fast break attempts than the Tamaraws, which leads to more transition baskets. Ateneo specializes in getting to the rim, and as a result, the defending champs have a huge advantage over FEU when it comes to free throws, 25 to 15.88.

That's not to say that FEU is a horrible offensive team though. They're certainly a better three-point shooting team, making more triples and at a better rate than the Eagles, who struggle at times to score from downtown. The slower pace of FEU makes them less susceptible to turnovers, though Terrence Romeo may have something to say about that, and despite injuries to their frontline, they score about three more second-chance points per game than Ateneo.

Ultimately, shooting may very well decide this battle. FEU gets about 25.5 of their 66 points per game from the perimeter, and a bad shooting night could ruin them, especially if the Eagles convert long rebounds into fast breaks. Conversely, Ateneo has seen some poor perimeter shooting games as well, especially from downtown, but they have a knack for making them when they really need to, see Kirk Long's two daggers in the first round match-up between these two teams, for example.


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Tough luck FEU, not only is Ateneo better at scoring, they're also better defending, giving up 59.07 points on average, while Far Eastern concedes 65.56 a game. In fact, nearly every defensive statistic favors the Katipunan-based squad, from three-point percentage allowed, field goal percentage allowed, free throws allowed, points in the paint, and perimeter scoring. In fact, the only category where the Tamaraws have an advantage is turnover points given up, where they norm about a point less than their opponents.

Injuries once again are the reason behind this big difference. Without a true small forward, FEU often goes with a three-guard line-up, good for offense, but a liability against certain teams on defense. Similarly, with just two legit big men in Aldrech Ramos and Russel Escoto, the Tamaraws can encounter problems defending the paint, especially against taller teams, not even putting foul trouble into the equation.


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Marquee Players
Despite an explosive performance from Cris Tolomia in the do or die game versus Adamson University, FEU will live or die based on how well the triumvirate of Aldrech Ramos, RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo perform, and based on past results, things don't bode well for them.

We mentioned above how the Ateneo defense is dominant, and in their two meetings this season, its impact can be clearly seen. Putting together the shooting performances of the two games, Ramos was 5 of 19, Garcia was 14 of 42, and Romeo was 8 of 31. Ateneo's defenders, Kirk Long and Emman Monfort, back-stopped by Tonino Gonzaga and Bacon Austria, simply give the FEU backcourt fits, while Ramos struggles when matched-up against Greg Slaughter, though Nico Salva guards him as well for certain stretches. Ramos' one big advantage is precisely the reason why Salva is often placed on him, an ability to step out beyond the three-point arc and nail some treys. This however, is tempered by the fact that if he misses (he's 7 for 24 for the season), the Eagles get an easy rebound and a chance to run it back at FEU.

Ateneo has some pretty good scorers of their own, with Salva, Slaughter and rookie of the year Kiefer Ravena handling the bulk of the offense when pitted against the Tamaraws. The lack of big men on FEU forces them to double Slaughter, giving Salva the spacing to shoot open mid-range jumpers. Ravena in transition is a monster finisher, and came up clutch against this squad in the second round, forcing overtime on two strong drives to the rim.


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Supporting Cast
Despite a shaky start to the season, Ateneo's bench has been able to settle down and develop into an excellent complementary unit to what the starters bring to the table. The reserves are led by Tonino Gonzaga, who brings hustle, defense, and the team's best outside shooting to the table, but also worth keeping an eye on is Justin Chua, who scored nine critical points over the third and fourth quarters in round two to keep Ateneo in the game. Should the FEU big men try their hand at hitting jump shots, you can expect Frank Golla and possibly Oping Sumalinog to see some time, as the more mobile big men defenders. Head coach Norman Black may even spring JP Erram again on the Tamaraws, after his shutdown defensive performance in game one of the Finals last season.

The lack of manpower hinders FEU's supporting cast somewhat, but they still have a few names that might tilt the game in their direction. Chris Exciminiano will draw the assignment of covering Ravena, but he played just 14 minutes in the two regular season meetings and was not really able to provide much in the way of scoring, More worrisome might be the chance that Cris Tolomia explodes again, after scoring a career-high 19 versus Adamson. RP Youth Under-18 teammate Kiefer Ravena will likely be the one assigned to make sure that doesn't happen again.  Russel Escoto and Roger Pogoy will provide some additional rebounding as well as the occasional points. The big x-factor for FEU will be the play of Carl Bryan Cruz, who dropped 10 points in round two. Can he accomplish that feat again?

The big concern about the FEU reserves is one of consistency, Yes they've all produced big games in the past, but can they do it again under the scrutiny of the Finals? Ateneo's reserves are more consistent and more importantly, have been here before, something half the FEU names mentioned above cannot say they've done.


pic source
While Ateneo head coach Norman Black is of the opinion that UST is the most physical team in the league, FEU has been giving them a run for their money on their road to the Finals, as guys like Pogoy, Cruz, and team captain Jens Knuttel have gotten into it recently with opposing players. Rattling Ateneo is not out of the question for this squad, the problem will be doing it with some of the Tams already nursing unsportsmanlike fouls. Should they get caught, that means a one-game suspension, which would be crippling in this series.

Another trick up FEU's sleeves is the possibility of Pipo Noundou or JR Cawaling jumping back into the fray, firing up their side of the Araneta Coliseum with a Willis Reed-esque moment. Head coach Bert Flores has been planting that seed of doubt in the heads of opponents in a "Will he? Or won't he?" type psych-war. After all, regardless of whether or not he actually fields them in, opposing head coaches still need to prepare for even the mere possibility that they see the floor.

The biggest thing Ateneo has going for them is their championship experience, having won three straight titles. It's not that big a deal if you compare it to playing a team that's getting to the postseason for the first time, like had they drawn Adamson, but as team captain Kirk Long said last year, "(The UAAP Finals) is sort of our home ground." That's the sort of winning attitude the Eagles will come to the table with, especially knowing that they took FEU's best punch in that overtime win, and still managed to rally for the victory.

EDGE: Slight advantage to FEU

More than getting an elimination round sweep, repeating for the fourth straight year has always been the main goal of Ateneo, and it's hard to imagine them faltering this close to the end. The Eagles simply have more weapons in this match-up, are a better defensive squad, and have the advantage of having beaten FEU twice, once in a blowout and then by a small margin. That is not to say that FEU will not go down fighting, in fact, I do not expect a blowout win like what we saw a season ago, but the Tamaraws need a lot of things to go right for them, starting with some ridiculously good shooting. Simply put, this is Ateneo's to win, and win they shall.

ADMU Blue Eagles win in two games, accomplishes the four-peat.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


History Lesson:
The defending NCAA champs found no real opposition from the Chiefs, as they turned a 21-17 first quarter deficit into a 44-35 lead at the break that only kept growing, until head coach Frankie Lim inserted his reserves in the fourth quarter. The game said volumes about San Beda's ability to execute, as they won 92-67, treating the Chiefs' zone defense like it was never really there. (Recap here)

What's at Stake: 
  • The Chiefs are 5-10, just a game behind the 6-9 logjam for fourth place. A win here boosts their postseason chances, while further harming San Beda's chances at getting the twice to beat advantage inherent in the top two seeds.
  • San Beda went back to its winning ways, improving to 11-2 after holding off the Cardinals, to stay a half-step behind the Letran Knights. A win here ties them with that team, necessary if the Red Lions want to snag a twice to beat advantage. 

AU Stat to Watch : Arellano's zone barely slowed San Beda down because the Red Lions were too speedy for the Chiefs, preventing them from getting back and setting it up. SBC scored 29 fast break points and 21 points off turnovers, as turnovers and poor transition defense burned AU. If they allow their opponent to get up and running again, another loss might be in order.
AU Player to Watch : Andrian Celada was barely a factor in their first encounter, scoring a mere eight points as the former Mythical Five selection struggled with a 3 of 14 shooting clip. He's been much improved since then though, having scored double-digits over the past 10 points, including coming off a 29-point career best versus Lyceum. That's the sort of effort he'll need to provide against a top-notch team like San Beda.

SBC Stat to Watch : The Red Lions notched 28 assists in this game, two shy of their season-high, as all that running and stealing turned out to be conducive to lots of forward passes to streaking open players. In their two losses, San Beda was held to under 20 assists, with 15 and 12 versus San Sebastian and JRU respectively. The team simply cannot take this game lightly and rely on individual play to win. 
SBC Player to Watch : Then a reserve, point guard Anjo Caram turned in his best performance of the season versus Arellano in the first round, with 15 points on perfect 6/6 shooting from the field plus five assists and no turnovers. Since then, Caram has assumed the starting job, and has shined as the team's floor general. If the perimeter defense is as bad now as it was back then, we could see some hot shooting coming from him again.


History Lesson:
Perpetual Help finally notched win number one in sports movie like fashion, surviving three overtime periods and fouled out players, getting relief from the bench in the form of a comebacking Jeorge Allen to beat the Heavy Bombers 79-77. (Recap here)

What's at Stake:
  • At 6-9, the JRU Heavy Bombers are in a three-team tie for fourth place with Lyceum and Mapua. More than though, they'd surely like to get revenge for their upset loss. 
  • Once again the cellar-dwellers, the 3-12 host school Perpetual Help Altas will settle once again for playing spoiler, looking for a repeat performance against the team that gave them their first win of the season.

JRU Stat to Watch : After some awful three-point shooting that includes a 1 for 12 performance in this game, the Heavy Bombers managed to hit seven each in their last two back to back games. That's the sort of floor spacing they could use on a more consistent basis as they battle for a Final Four spot.
JRU Player to Watch : John Lopez turned in a decent performance, 14 points and 11 rebounds in the first game, but those seem small considering he played 46 minutes. Lopez was also responsible for a team-high nine turnovers in the game. Now that he's no longer the focal point of their offense, Lopez might produce better results under less pressure.

UPHSD Stat to Watch : It took the Altas three overtimes in the first round to notch 79 points, but they've averaged 75 in their last three games, none of which went beyond regulation. Part of the reason why is because Perpetual's been taking and making more triples, from 8 of 22 in 55 minutes, to 8.33 of 27. Considering how JRU's been piling on the offense as well, compared to how they were in the first round, they might need those triples to keep in step.
UPHSD Player to Watch : The Altas leaned on their best scorer, Jett Vidal, to carry them in overtime, where he scored 9 of his season-high 21 points. Vidal was 5 for 12 from beyond the arc in that game, but 0 for 6 from the two-point territory, something that's become almost the norm for him. In his last four games, the former PCU Dolphin made just a single two-pointer after 13 attempts, but is 14/40 from downtown.


One Day Later: CSJL vs EAC, MIT vs SBC

All out Alas - Kevin Alas continues to solidify his case for MVP (pic source)

CSJL 80 - EAC 58
Recap - - - Preview

Player of the Game : Kevin Alas turned in his usual dynamic performance, leading both teams in scoring with 20 points, while also tallying 11 rebounds, six assists, and a block and a steal each. No doubt though, he had a bad shooting night, going 8 of 24 from the field, and 4 of 11 from the stripe.

The Numbers :

  • EAC kept things close in the first half by out-rebounding Letran, 22-20, helping them knot the game at 35 all going into the break. By the end of the game, the Knights were able to assert themselves on the boards, finishing 46-41, 18-14 on the offensive glass.
  • A huge disparity in the foul shooting bears mentioning, as Letran attempted 45 free throws to just 13 by the Generals, highlighting their different styles of play. Despite a horrid 49 percent clip at the line, the Knights still hit more free throws, 22 than all of what EAC attempted.
  • Letran forced 32 turnovers on EAC, but their transition game was off as they only converted those errors into 13 turnover points. Contrast that with the 19 turnovers of Letran becoming 18 turnover points by EAC.
  • Jam Cortes had tallied three flagrant-one fouls, thus earning him an automatic suspension for this game. That also prevents him from notching any post-season plumes, a shame since he was in the top 5 of the MVP Race and likely would have been a Mythical Five contender.
  • Horrible outing for the EAC guards. Milan Vargas, Igee King, Roy Villegas, Joshua Torralba and Franz Chiong all combined for a whopping 12 points on 4 of 17 shooting and 11 turnovers.
The Other Names :
  • Only Remy Morada was an effective backcourt player for EAC, scoring 15 in 23 minutes off the bench, along with three boards, four dimes and four swipes. He did miss all five of his treys though, but otherwise was 6 for 10 from inside the arc. 
  • Junjun Alas was the beneficiary in minutes with Cortes out, scoring 12 in 17 minutes, including a triple. He also had three boards, a steal and a block. 

One man band - Allan Mangahas could not carry the Cardinals to a win (pic source)
SBC 76 - MIT 59
Recap - - - Preview

Player of the Game : The biggest area of improvement many people felt Baser Amer had going into his rookie season was his outside shooting, well clearly he's been working on it, as he drained 3 of 4 triples in the first half that provided timely separation from the Cardinals. All in all, Amer scored 13 on 5 of 6 shooting, to go with three boards, four dimes and a steal.

The Numbers :
  • Key numbers for San Beda: get 40 or more rebounds and 10 or more fastbreak points, things they did not do versus JRU. Well, check and check, as they hauled down 42 rebounds and scored 12 fastbreak points.
  • For whatever reason, the bigs of San Beda were extremely foul happy, unable to contain their Mapua counterparts. Dave Marcelo and Kyle Pascual both fouled out, while David Semerad finished with four fouls. But the guards of the Red Lions had a similar problem, with Anjo Caram and Rome Dela Rosa both tallying four as well. All in all, they notched a season-high 32 fouls, and sent Mapua to the line 35 times. Luckily, the Cardinal made just 18 of them, a 51 percent clip.
  • Horrible stat #2 that probably cost Mapua the game: a season-low five assists, just the second time since the season opener when they had single-digit assists.
  • Horrible stat #3 that probably cost Mapua the game: a second-worst for the season 11 bench points. 
  • San Beda shot 7 for 13 from outside, contributing to a 46 percent rate from the field, 27 of 58.

The Other Names :
  • As the lone big man who avoided foul trouble, Jake Pascual played 31 minutes and finished with 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. He did have the worst shooting night though, scoring nine but on 4 of 15 shooting.
  • Allan Mangahas tried to will his team back from the dead, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter, but it simply wasn't enough. He was also the only Cardinal with more than a single assist in the game.

NCAA Picking Record: 54-19-1

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


History Lesson:
The Cardinals were on the verge of an upset, thrashing a 61-47 San Beda lead early in the fourth down to just four, 70-66, thanks to clutch play by Allan Mangahas and Mark Sarangay, 1:49 left. The Red Lions made a sloppy error on their next possession, forgetting the shot clock and being forced to hand the ball back to Mapua after 24 seconds. Mapua came up empty as well, but Kenneth Ighalo was there for the repossession, and this time, Mangahas delivered, getting to within a deuce, 70-68, with 47.2 seconds left. Off a timeout, head coach Frankie Lim's designed play suddenly went out the window, when gunner Garvo Lanete slipped while using a screen to get free. Luckily for them, the screener, Dave Marcelo, pounced on the ball and laid it up, creating enough to separation to escape, 74-68. (Recap here)

What's at Stake:

  • The 6-8 Mapua Cardinals are just a half-game ahead of the Lyceum Pirates and the JRU Heavy Bombers, as well as a win ahead of the CSB Blazers. Everyone's still gunning for that fourth seed, and the Cardinals need the wins to create separation between them and the trailers, or risk missing out on the Final Four.
  • The defending champions did not expect to tally another loss after their first round defeat to San Sebastian, but lose they did to a determined and more active JRU team, putting them at 10-2. Due to some huge gaps in the scheduling, they've been idle as Letran has accumulated more wins than them, and so they'll seek to make up some lost ground in the "W" column with a victory here.

MIT Stat to Watch : The Cardinals went with three big men for much of the early part of this game, allowing them to come out on top of the rebounding battle, 54-32, 28-14 on the offensive boards. Unfortunately, they were unable to sustain the tactic, owing to foul trouble (Mike Parala wound up fouling out in 11 minutes, after chipping in 12 and 6). If they can keep their bigs longer on the floor in this match, maybe they'll get a different result from their first round loss.
MIT Player to Watch : Josan Nimes forged a new career-high with 31 points in their last game against the Stags, but the MIT coaching staff completely forgot about him after a sizzling third period that saw him put up 21, playing him just four minutes and giving him one shot, a triple which he made. Combine that with the fact that he threw the ball away on the last possession instead of taking a possible overtime-forcing attempt, and this guy might be looking for some redemption.

SBC Stat to Watch : Versus JRU, the Red Lions were held to their fewest fastbreak attempts, five, as the Bombers made a conscious effort to get back on defense and prevent run-outs. That's actually something Mapua does pretty well, conceding just seven fastbreak attempts to opponents per game, second-best in the NCAA.
SBC Player to Watch : What's the common factor in the two losses of San Beda? Zero points from Garvo Lanete in the final period. In the loss to San Sebastian, Lanete simply did not get enough attempts, missing all two of his tries in seven minutes. Versus JRU though, Lanete could not hit anything, flubbing six in as many minutes. He had nine in eight minutes versus Mapua in the first round, but could have been the goat had his turnover not been saved by Dave Marcelo.

Prediction: San Beda Red Lions


History Lesson: 
With their backcourt being held in check by their younger EAC counterparts, Letran turned to their three-headed frontcourt beast, and the big men responded in kind. Raymond Almazan, Jam Cortes and Jonathan Belorio dominated the interior to the tune of 43 points and 38 rebounds. Still, the Generals were able to threaten late, cutting a 66-52 lead to just six points with 1:21 left, but that would be their last gasp, as the Knights scored twice to seal the win, 76-67. (Recap here)

What's at Stake:

  • At 11-2, the Knights are a half game ahead of the San Beda Red Lions, a place they want to be, because of the twice-to-beat advantage that is attached to the second seed. With the defending champions also playing on this day in the second game, Letran will want to keep up their pace, especially should the Lions collapse for a second straight time. 
  • The 4-10 EAC Generals are still mathematically in the hunt for the fourth playoff seed, but that would require some mindblowing collapse from everyone ahead of them, making that highly unlikely. Instead, EAC may want to start trying to figure out their crowded backcourt and see if Claude Cubo can come close to replicating his 29-point game or even something close to that, on a regular basis.

CSJL Stat to Watch : Letran leads the league in 2-point attempts (54.77) owing to their league best 23.86 offensive rebounds, and luckily for them, they'll be playing EAC, the team that currently gives up the most points (81.21 a game) and also the most 2-point attempts (51.79). San Beda has already broken the century mark against this team twice, so it's certainly not out of the question that the Knights accomplish that feat. 
CSJL Player to Watch : Can Jam Cortes repeat history and come up with another monster performance, like his 18-20 outing in the first round? If Lyceum's Mark Francisco can put up huge numbers, then this ought to be a breeze for Cortes.

EAC Stat to Watch : At the risk of paraphrasing myself, I'll simply say that EAC is the worst rebounding team defensively, giving up 48.21 boards a game, while Letran is the second best rebounding team, at 50.23 per outing. Again, this cannot end well.
EAC Player to Watch : On the opposite end of the spectrum is Claude Cubo, and his 29 points, nine rebound outing versus the tiny Lyceum. Can he repeat versus the long arms of Raymond Almazan? Unlikely, but he needs to try to bring some balance to their offense.

Prediction: Letran Knights

One Day Later: LPU vs EAC, JRU vs CSB

LPU 77 - EAC 73
Recap - - - Preview

Player of the Game : With Arwin Azores stuck in a hospital, Mark Francisco got the nod to start, and the unheralded forward made the most of the opportunity, scoring 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting, to go with 18 rebounds and three blocks. Francisco is barely 6'3" in shoes, but he sure stood tall (*groan*) in this game. 

The Numbers :
  • Pirates head coach Bonnie Tan said that he decided to run in this game given their lack of players. Given their height disadvantage versus almost all the other teams (save for perhaps, CSB and Perpetual Help), I'm surprised they never thought of doing this earlier. Lyceum finished with season-highs in fastbreak points (25) and turnover points (26) as a result. 
  • Lyceum finished with just a single three-pointer for the second straight game, going 1 of 13 from beyond the arc. This is from the team that has hit the most triples in a game this season (12) and the only squad aside from Perpetual with multiple double-digit three-pointer games. 
  • EAC topped their previously set season-high for assists by getting one more dime than the 22 they tallied in the season opener. The x-factor? Shooter Jan Jamon somehow wound up with a career-high eight dimes. His previous high was four versus San Beda in their round two blowout.
  • In the last 3:36 of the game, LPU went on a decisive 16-5 run to come out on top. They had lacked that ability to put away teams over their four-game losing streak.
  • Joshua Torralba returned from a groin injury that kept him out of three games, but he was far from effective, scoring just four points on 2 of 10 shooting, though he also added two rebounds and three assists.
The Other Names :
  • Claude Cubo scored a career-high 29 points on 12 of 19 shooting, to go with a 5 of 6 stint at the freethrow line, nine rebounds and a block. 
  • Jolas Paguia also had a productive outing, with 10 points in 27 minutes, two triples, seven boards, two assists, a steal and a whopping four blocks. 
  • Shane Ko was steady as usual for the Pirates, scoring 11 on 5 of 8 shooting, but more importantly contributing five rebounds and a team-high five assists for Lyceum.

JRU 78 - CSB 63
Recap - - - Preview

Player of the Game : I've never understood why JRU head coach Vergel Meneses messes around with John Montemayor and Ralph Monserat when he has Jeckster Apinan sitting on his bench. Well Apinan continues to put up some impressive sixth-man stats, leading all scorers in this match with 17 points (7/10 shooting), while also being the only player on both sides to get double-digit rebounds, with 10, five on the offensive end.

The Numbers :
  • While the JRU pounce-on-turnover-and-score sequences were oftentimes more impressive looking and packed more punch, a peek at the stats actually shows that not only did both sides commit 22 turnovers, but CSB actually edged forward in the turnover points category by a point, 24-23.
  • Where JRU actually made in-roads was in transition, usually via outlet pass to a streaking Heavy Bomber for an easy lay-in. In that regard, JRU had the advantage, scoring 15 fast break points to eight by CSB.
  • St. Benilde went with a zone the entire game, feeling that they could not match-up with the JRU bigs. But aside from the aforementioned turnover and fast break points scenarios which allowed JRU to score before the zone was set up, the Heavy Bombers also dropped 7 of 21 triples. 
  • Another side effect of the zone was in fact, the big men having their way against the St. Benilde bigs. JRU got a 40 to 23 rebounding advantage, 17 to 6 on the offensive glass. Apinan's 10 rebounds and John Lopez's nine boards were dominant, especially in contrast to the fact that CSB's best rebounder had just four boards, while big men Jan Tan, Tim McCoy, Ian Dela Paz and Alison Carlos combined rebounds all in all.
  • This was the first time all season CSB gave up 50 percent shooting, as all of JRU's easy scoring trips helped bloat their percentages.

The Other Names :
  • The departure of Lastimosa did give Jonathan Grey and Paolo Taha a bump in minutes, to 27 and 28, respectively, but the biggest beneficiary turned out to be the forgotten homegrown rookie Michael Pate. Pate had appeared in just six other games prior to his start in this encounter, scoring a grand total of 10 points, but he was able to exceed that in just 22 minutes today, scoring 13 on 4 of 6 shooting.
  • John Lopez also padded the stat sheet, aside from the aforementioned nine boards. The big man finished with nine points, three assists and two steals, also showing up his CSB counterparts.

NCAA Picking Record: 52-19-1

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Battles: ADU vs FEU S74 Final Four

The Marquee Names Battle
  • ADU's Lester Alvarez and Alex Nuyles versus FEU's RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo
This is a hard match-up to wrap your head around. In the first game, Alex Nuyles (20 points, six rebounds, two assists) was overpowered by the one-two punch of RR Garcia (16 points, eight rebounds) and Terrence Romeo (19 points, four rebounds, two assists). In the second game, Nuyles forced the issue too much (12 points on 3 of 13 shooting), Garcia was limited (11 points in 31 minutes) due to foul trouble, and Romeo (15 points, four turnovers, three in the fourth quarter) nearly handed Adamson the win. Lester Alvarez? He just basically stunk the entire series, totaling 14 points on 5 of 19 shooting, 2 of 11 from downtown, though six of his eight assists came in the do or die game.

There are extenuating circumstances though. Nuyles was not 100 percent due to an ankle sprain he suffered at the end of the first game. Head coach Leo Austria decided to play it safe, bringing him off the bench, but ultimately, he still played 30 minutes, the most of anyone on the team, but he didn't have the same lift, best seen when his fastbreak layup hit the bottom part of the backboard in the fourth quarter. Romeo's poor decision making has been an aspect of his game that FEU has had to live with all throughout this season, and the fact that he had gone several games without a crippling error meant that the Tams were really just living on borrowed time. Garcia was the victim of the referees "calling it tightly." And if you're surprised that Alvarez kept throwing up shot after shot, then you haven't been watching his game this entire season (he's 44/154 the entire season, or 28.57 percent shooting overall).

Ultimately, the thinking is that after explosive performances in the first game, both sides endeavored to shut the other side's superstars in the second match, leaving it up to the supporting casts to carry the game.

The "Other Guys" Battle
  • FEU's Cris Tolomia versus ADU's Jerick Canada
Both these guys came off the bench and out of nowhere, turning in some heroic performances to try to get their squad into the finals.

Jerick Canada used to be "the name" on Adamson, a long time ago, before Alvarez came on and basically stole his thunder. Credit to head coach Leo Austria, there was never a point guard controversy on this squad, with Canada graciously accepting the reserve role, sprinkled in with occasional starting stints. In yesterday's game, scored 10 of his squad's 14 points in the final period, including hitting back to back triples, and also made all four of his swipes in that quarter. Just to point out how out of nowhere his game was, prior to this match, Canada had never scored in double-digits, never hit more than one triple in a game, and never made more than one steal in a game.

Cris Tolomia on the other hand, found himself in a difficult position in his rookie year. After sitting out two seasons due to RP Youth U-18 commitments, Tolomia got onto the FEU Team A and discovered that Garcia and Romeo would be getting the majority of touches and minutes at the guard spot. No matter, Tolomia adapted well to the small forward spot, a necessity, given how often head coach Bert Flores is forced to go with three guards since JR Cawaling's injury. But Tolomia is a better defender than the other two, and may possibly be more clutch, as seen in his game-winner versus UST in Round One. But since their loss to UP in round one, Tolomia had not scored in double-digits, and was actually 0 for 13 in their last two games coming into this encounter. And yet, he played all 10 minutes of the third quarter and scored nine of his 19 in that period.

Unfortunately, only one player could be a winner, and that was Tolomia and his FEU Tams.

The Big Man Battle
  • ADU's Austin Manyara, Jan Colina, Eric Camson and Rodney Brondial versus FEU's Carl Bryan Cruz, Aldrech Ramos, Russel Escoto and Mark Bringas
Head coach Bert Flores was not happy in the first quarter. Mark Bringas was chucking up shots, 0/3 in six minutes, forcing him to bench the former San Sebastian Stag for playing out of the team concept. Then he saw Carl Bryan Cruz get into a near-skirmish with Adamson big men Eric Camson and Rodney Brondial. But the outcome of that incident made him smile. With unsportsmanlike fouls being issued on all three players, Cruz was the guy who came out of it fired up, finishing with eight points and four rebounds in 15 minutes. Camson only stepped up in the fourth quarter. Brondial never got going after a strong first game (four points, 10 rebounds, three blocks in 26 minutes, to just two points, four rebounds in 10 minutes).

It was always going to be about rebounding in this series. In the regular season encounters, which the two teams split, Adamson had dominated the glass, 85-63, 36-20 on the offensive glass. That got flipped on its head in the postseason, with FEU 99 - ADU 72 in total rebounds, 39-28 in offensive rebounds. During the last game, no Falcons hauled down double-digit rebounds. Aldrech Ramos had 12.

8 Things I Think
  • I think the best coaching move of the series was Bert Flores going to the three-guard line-up in the third quarter and riding it late into the game. The Falcons simply did not have anyone who could guard Tolomia, and he made them pay for it. 
  • It's surprising to me how no one has really mentioned Janus Lozada, or rather, his second half disappearance. Lozada played 15 out of the 20 first half minutes and was leading Adamson in scoring with nine markers. He played just eight minutes in the second half and did not attempt a single shot. Why didn't they go to him more often and ride his hot hand? How come coach Leo Austria didn't try rotating him on the FEU guards instead of matching up by going small with two point guards and Nuyles?
  • Austin Manyara was never really able to capitalize on his best UAAP game, a 13-point, 12-rebound performance versus UP, as he had to exit early with an ankle injury. He missed their next assignment and hasn't been as effective since. 
  • I don't think Adamson will be able to go back to the Final Four next season. Losing two veteran point guards is a huge blow to this team, especially when they only have Ryan Monteclaro as the other floor general currently on roster, who played a grand total of 16 minutes this season. They're okay at the other spots. Harry Petilos or Allen Etrone can split Lozada's minutes, plus Jericho Cruz, who impressed in this summer's Fil-Oil tournament will be eligible. Up front, Eric Camson will get the start in lieu of Colina, with Brondial splitting time between PF and C. 
  • Romeo's crippling errors have all been of the unforced kind, which says something about how easily this kid can get rattled. Matched up with Kirk Long and Kiefer Ravena in the Finals, the Eagles will be better equipped to force and pounce on his errors, than the Falcons could ever be.
  • Similarly, FEU is going to have a hard time using that three-guard line-up versus the Eagles. Ateneo's problem was that they couldn't match-up with the bigger Adamson guards. Putting out what is essentially three shooting guards will just delight the defending champions. 
  • Russel Escoto is a beast for playing with a fractured hand - and still coming up with some huge rebounds. 
  • FEU's biggest advantage is the possibility that JR Cawaling or Pipo Noundou will pull a Willis Reed and turn a close game around. Just by participating in warm-ups and sitting dressed on the sidelines, the Ateneo coaching staff will be forced to gameplan for these guys, even if it turns out they don't see a single minute of playing time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


History Lesson:
A split at the line with a little under two minutes by Vence Laude had the Pirates threatening to pull off another come from behind win, 68-65, but on the next possession, a gambling Allan Santos chose to help double Milan Vargas, and EAC's playmaker issued a pass to a wide-open Jolas Paguia who calmly sank a huge triple, that put the lead out of reach for Lyceum, handing the Generals a 73-67 win. That allowed the Generals to match their Season 86 win total after just three games. (Recap here)

 What's at Stake: 
  • Neither of these two teams are mathematically out of the playoff hunt yet, sticking within striking distance of the 6-7 Mapua Cardinals. But the 5-8 Lyceum Pirates and the 4-9 EAC Generals will need to string together a series of wins, and if they can knock down one of the other teams threatening to get number four, so much the better.

LPU Stat to Watch : After beating JRU in their first assignment of the second round, the Pirates have spiraled downward on a four-game losing streak. Scoring is down big for this squad, going from an average of 75.33 points in the first round to just 70.8 in their past five games. They're simply not converting as well as they used to, dropping from a 39.89 field goal percentage to 34.9 percent. Given that EAC is not exactly known as a defensive club, this could be Pirates' time to break through.  
LPU Player to Watch : Chris Cayabyab has only notched multiple triples in the second round once, a four-trey game versus the Perpetual Help Altas, as opponents have figured out that limiting Cayabyab has a huge impact on this team's offense. The first time they played EAC though, Cayabyab was a horrible 0 for 10 from beyond the arc, so if the Generals can defend him the same way, this could be a long day for the sniper.

EAC Stat to Watch : The Generals have the worst assist to turnover ration in the league, a roughly 4 to 7 clip that has them giving up the most fastbreak attempts in the league (10.08) and the third-most turnover points (16.15). Luckily for them though, the Pirates are almost as bad as they are, surrendering 8.64 fastbreak attempts and are the worst in the league when it comes to allowing opponents to score turnover points, with 19.71 points being given up. If this becomes an up and down sort of game, the Pirates may come out on the losing end.
EAC Player to Watch : With so many players going in and out of EAC's sickbay, Jan Jamon has been the one constant, and as a result, is now tied with Joshua Torralba as the team's best scorer with a 12.8 average. Because we still don't know if Torralba will play or not, Jamon has to be ready to pick up the scoring slack, and build upon an 11-12 performance versus Perpetual Help.

Prediction: EAC Generals


History Lesson:
The Blazers leaned on the late-game heroics of Carlo Lastimosa to win a hard-fought game, as last season's rookie of the year drove hard down the lane and scored over John Villarias to put his squad up 78-77. With just five seconds left on the clock and the length of the court to traverse, JRU did not have enough time to counter, falling after leading throughout the game's three quarters.  Free throws were the key to this game, as Benilde tallied 52 attempts compared to just a measly 11 for JRU. (Recap here)

What's at Stake:
  • With the Blazers at 5-8 and the Heavy Bombers at 5-9, both these teams have a clear shot at overtaking the Mapua Cardinals, who absorbed a loss to San Sebastian, and now find themselves at 6-7. A win here puts either team that much closer to the fourth seed, while a loss puts the defeated in a position where they will have to sweep their remaining games in the vague hopes of forcing a playoff for the final playoff berth.

CSB Stat to Watch : The Blazers were the second best team at getting to the line in round one, attempting 30.22 free throws a game (Letran led the league with 32.11 tries). They've dropped to just 27.5 looks at the line in round two and have dropped to fourth, behind the Knights, Pirates and Stags. With Carlo Lastimosa leaving the team, they lose a large chunk of their perimeter scoring, so it's possible that you'll see Jonathan Grey and Paolo Taha compensate by attacking the rim.
CSB Player to Watch : With Mark Romero and Carlo Lastimosa both gone, CSB loses the two players that played the most minutes for them. That means someone like Jonathan Grey serves to gain from the sudden abundance of playing time. Grey currently averages 12 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 21.5 minutes, but giving him 30 minutes sees his production shoot up to 16.74 points, 6.56 rebounds, 3.35 assists and 1.53 steals if he remains consistent.

JRU Stat to Watch : Versus the Red Lions, the Heavy Bombers were able to fully realize their inside-out attack, making a season-high seven triples on 36.84 percent shooting, their second-best mark from downtown. If they can pull off a similar feat, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them win three in a row.
JRU Player to Watch : John Lopez was not bothered by the many big men of San Beda, scoring 17 points in the game, the first time he's hit double-digit scoring in their last five games. That came about because he also spent more time on the floor, notching just a single foul, the first time that happened all season. The first time they played Benilde, Lopez fouled out after just 15 minutes of play. That can't happen if they want to split the season series.

Prediction: JRU Heavy Bombers

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Battles: ADMU vs UST S74 Final Four

The Center Battle
  • UST's Karim Abdul  versus ADMU's Greg Slaughter, featuring a cameo by Frank Golla
Prior to this game, the storyline was all about how Karim Abdul had shut down Greg Slaughter in their regular season meetings, how Abdul would be fired up after sitting out their last regular season game due to suspension, how Slaughter seemed to force things versus the big men of Adamson, and so on. In the first quarter, Abdul did dominate, scoring 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting with three rebounds and a block. The difference was that Slaughter did not back down, scoring points as well, already beating his six point average in the game's first right minutes, scoring eight while going 4 for 4 from the field.

But the Eagles were not going to get anywhere swapping basket for basket with Abdul, thus, send in the reserves, as Frank "The Tank" Golla was given the defensive job of handling the Cameroonian. Guess what, the move turned out to be genius. Unlike Slaughter, who seemed to be too "gigil," leaping into the air everytime Abdul made the slightest twitch of his shoulders (if I was 7-feet tall and had his wing span, I don't think I'd even jump to try to block a shot), Golla played him straight up, and refused to bite on his fakes. Meanwhile, Ateneo head coach Norman Black must have been pointing out what Golla was doing to Slaughter, as when Golla sat back down, Slaughter had learned his lesson, shutting down Abdul for that quarter. All in all, Abdul was 0 for 6 from the field in that period, 1 of 4 for the rest of the game, as the fatigue clearly set in by around the third quarter.

Abdul wound up scoring five more points after the first quarter, finishing with a line of 16 points, 16 boards, two steals and two blocks. Slaughter had nine points after the first ten minutes of play, outscoring Abdul with 17 points, plus eight rebounds and three blocks, before cramping up late.

The Backcourt Battle
  • ADMU's Kirk Long and Emman Monfort versus UST's Jeric Fortuna and Jeric Teng
In their final year as Blue Eagles, Long and Monfort have seen their scoring go down (currently averaging 8.3 and 7.1 points, after 9.6 and 8.9 a season ago) but it barely matters to them as that hasn't been their role. What they have been doing is locking down on the top two perimeter threats of the other team and running the show for the other players. It's a stark contrast to the two Jeric's of UST, who have had to do more work on the offensive end due to the absence of Clark Bautista (Fortuna jumped from 10.4 points a game to 13.6, while Teng went from 12.9 points to 14 a game).

Similar to their regular season encounters, Teng and Fortuna were controlled throughout the first three periods, combining for just nine points. When the chips were down though, the UST backcourt was able to make it a game in the final period, scoring 11 as an upset seemed like a distinct possibility. Unfortunately, Fortuna giveth (three assists) but he also taketh away (two turnovers), and he was unable to score on the overtime-forcing triple try on the last shot. It wasn't all glitter and gold for the Ateneo side either, as both Monfort and Long went scoreless in the final period, with Long in particular, missing three triple attempts, any one of which could have been dagger shots. In the end though, the Blue Eagle duo combined for nine assists and played praise-worthy defense, even in the face of a suddenly hot pair.

The Rookie Battle
  • UST's Kevin Ferrer versus ADMU's Kiefer Ravena
Kiefer Ravena denies that it became a rematch of their Juniors Finals in the fourth quarter of this game, saying that it was always "Ateneo versus UST." It sure didn't seem like it though, as the regular season Juniors MVP took on the Finals Juniors MVP of Season 73, just like what happened nearly a year ago. In previous games, Ravena had flourished, taking on the assignment of guarding the taller Ferrer happily, stretching back to their encounter in the summer's Fil-Oil tournament. What made the assignment work, allowing Ateneo to leave Monfort and Long to handle the Jerics, was that despite the height advantage of Ferrer, the former Tiger Cub did not know how to use it, content to just throw up shots from the perimeter (1 of 12 in the regular season), and even those refused to connect.

In the fourth quarter, Ferrer finally seemed to take it personally, and began posting Ravena up, but you could see how uncomfortable and how alien the maneuver seemed to him, even committing an offensive foul once for elbowing Ravena out of the low post. Still, numbers-wise, Ferrer's eight points helped keep UST alive, and was the first time he scored double-digits versus the Eagles. Ravena on the other hand, had five in the fourth, but could have been better, shooting only 2 of 6 from the field, missing out on some of his fadeaways, and converting just 1 of 3 potentially huge free throws, after drawing Ferrer's fifth on a triple try.

 The Reserves Battle
  • ADMU's Justin Chua, Tonino Gonzaga and Juami Tiongson versus UST's Robin Tan and Melo Afuang
In a do or die game, UST coach Pido Jarencio knew that he had to lean on his starters, as only reserve bigs Paolo Pe and Melo Afuang saw more than five minutes off the bench. Afuang of course, was a surprise, coming out of recovery from gallstone surgery early to play in this game, finishing with five points and six rebounds. Meanwhile, Robin Tan had never made a field goal in the regular season, going 0 for 9 overall, 0 for 5 from beyond the arc. But he finally hit a shot, a triple to boot, in the game's second period, to the delight of the UST side.

On the other side of the court, the result was the opposite. After being maligned for most of the regular season, Black actually gave key minutes to his reserves, and they rewarded his confidence in him with some big moments. It was Tonino Gonzaga and Juami Tiongson who helped create the separation between the two squads in the second quarter, scoring their combined 10 points in the first half. Then with Slaughter succumbing to cramps, Justin Chua ably filled in for the big man in the final period for five points, snagging a crucial offensive rebound of a Long miss that allowed him to hit a free throw to prop Ateneo up four with less than a minute.   

The Forwards Battle
  • UST's Chris Camus versus ADMU's Nico Salva
The opposite of the Abdul-Slaughter match-up in the regular season, Salva has menaced Camus especially when isolated against him, beating him off the dribble, oftentimes in fantastic manner. A scoreless first quarter gave way to both players getting into a groove, though Camus was certainly hindered by foul trouble. And while Salva was able to add to his highlight reel with another fantastic play, getting the step on Camus for a nice layup, the former San Beda Team B player unleashed two big triples in the fourth quarter, going back to his days as a shooter, to two UST to good position. Unfortunately for him though, in the end, Salva was able to seal the game with two free throws, paving the way for his team to advance to the Finals. Camus will have to wait a year to get his revenge.

8 Things I Think
  • Now that I've gotten confirmation that Melo Afuang and Chris Camus will indeed be back for next season (there was some notion that they would fall victim to the 7-years out of high school rule), I think that the Tigers are poised to return to the Final Four. Getting back guys like Clark Bautista, Aljon Mariano, and Eduardo Daquioag will give them more firepower and ease the pressure off Fortuna and Teng. 
  • I don't think Ateneo's defense was horrible in the final period, it's just that it will always give up long-range shots because that's what it's designed to do, according to head coach Norman Black: deny the interior and make opponents beat them from the outside. Luckily for them, they had a big enough lead that UST could not complete the comeback.
  • I think UST's end to the third quarter was a huge missed opportunity, as they tried to cut a 15-point lead down to single digits. Despite repeated trips to the line, Camus and Afuang finished just 3 of 8, making it 52-40 entering the final period.
  • I think it surprised a lot of people that the Tigers didn't try to zone more often, insisting on matching up one on one with the Eagles. UST seemed intent on getting the rebounding advantage, something they would lose if they went zone, but it would have been a worthy gamble considering Ateneo was just 7 of 32 from the perimeter for 16 points. 
  • I think Ateneo's recent inability to hit free throws is rather disturbing. They ended the season tops with a 72.83 clip, but are just 30 of 49 for 61.22 percent in their past two games.
  • I think the person happiest to see Kirk Long finally graduate is Jeric Teng, though I'm sure Tigers fans in general are happy to see him go
  • I think Pido Jarencio deserves to be head coach again for the Tigers next season.
  • I think if UST decides to part ways with Jarencio, they need to strongly consider keeping assistant Chris Cantonjos as long as Abdul is with the team.