- UST's Karim Abdul versus ADMU's Greg Slaughter, featuring a cameo by Frank Golla
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
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.
- UST's Kevin Ferrer versus ADMU's Kiefer Ravena
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.
- ADMU's Justin Chua, Tonino Gonzaga and Juami Tiongson versus UST's Robin Tan and Melo Afuang
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.
- UST's Chris Camus versus ADMU's Nico Salva
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.