View from the Enemy: Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles
Something that sports fans all around the world look forward to. From the Lakers versus Celtics in the NBA, to the Yankees versus the Red Sox in the MLB, to the PBA’s classic Crispa versus Toyota, sports fans always love a good rivalry. In local college hoops, there is none bigger than the Ateneo – La Salle rivalry of the UAAP. Alumni, students and fans alike look forward to this event. Celebrities, politicians, big businessmen and loyal fans pack the arena and act like rabid wolverines for two hours or so cheering for their alma mater.
Last year, the De La Salle Green Archers and the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles faced each other three times. Ateneo won all three of them, including a classic, come from behind 66-63 Final Four win that eliminated the Green Archers. This rivalry have not been kind for the green and white. In the past five years, Ateneo has dominated this matchup, winning 12 out of the last 13 Ateneo-La Salle games, with La Salle’s last victory coming last 2010. La Salle is hungry for a victory over Ateneo. The long suffering La Salle faithful would love to celebrate this Sunday, and in the process, bury Ateneo all the way down to 0-3. After a season opener loss to UST, La Salle bounced back with a victory over UP where La Salle showed everyone that they can be a lethal offensive team. However, La Salle’s defense is not yet great. La Salle needs a better defensive outing if they want to stop the two-year losing drought to Ateneo. The Blue and White lost their first 2 games of the tournament, mainly because of the ankle injury on the King Blue Eagle, Kiefer Ravena. It is a big question mark if he will play this Sunday, but even if he does, he is not in 100%. The other Blue Eagles needs to step up to avoid an early 0-3 hole. For the first time since the JV Casio era, many are considering La Salle as the favorite for this game, thanks to Kiefer Ravena’s injury. But this is a rivalry, and in any rivalry, most especially in this one, both teams always have a chance, regardless of the circumstances.
Keys to the Game
Stop Ryan Buenafe
Buenafe exploded for 29 points in an overtime loss against FEU. Though Buenafe has been “consistent in being inconsistent” through out his UAAP career, it seems he makes up for it by making big plays and having big games when it matters the most, and he loves playing against arch-rivals La Salle. La Salle should limit Buenafe, not just in scoring, but in his play making skills as well. The former San Sebastian Staglet wants to prove that he can be the leader of Ateneo, at least while Ravena is still recovering from his injury, and what better way to prove it by winning their first game of the season, against La Salle no less.
Stop the three point shooters of Ateneo
During La Salle’s last game against UP, the Maroons wer able to covert 14out of their 28 attempts from downtown for a whooping 50%. Fortunately, DLSU was able to still get the victory. I doubt it if La Salle can beat Ateneo if the Ateneans can covert 14/18 from rainbow territory. Von Pessumal, Nico Elorde and Juami “Magic” Tiongson can all hit the three for Ateneo and La Salle should check the outside snipers of the Blue and White.
Just Relax, and do not be overconfident
I can’t believe I just said that La Salle should not be over confident against Ateneo, but that is the case this time around. Ravena might not play, and even if he does, he will be very limited anyways. But that doesn’t mean the Blue Eagles will roll over and die. Never underestimate the heart of a champion and the FEU side almost suffered from their over confidence as the Ateneans took it to them last Wednesday. La Salle should just play its game and be focus for 40 minutes.
I predict a close game this Sunday. I expect big games from Jeron Teng and Jason Perkins. Jeron is hungry for his first victory against Ateneo and I expect another double-double game for Perkins, especially with Ateneo playing small ball. It will be an emotionally charged game, just like any Ateneo-Lasalle game. La Salle is very hungry for a victory over Ateneo and the Blue Eagles will surely miss the Blue Mamba. La Salle will win this one.