View from the Enemy: Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles

Win or go home. As simple as that. Just like Jeric Teng hopefully this wouldn’t be my last pre-game here in HumbleBola for this season.

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Okay enough with all that we have a ball game to look forward for. How exciting this would be, last year’s finalists going at each other again and this time around in a knock out game for the right to be in the semi-finals. One word that would probably be in the minds of the UST Growling Tigers – Revenge. They’ve been swept in last year’s championship series and they’ve been dislodged from the second rank of the standing by the end of the first round of this season by none other than the Ateneo Blue Eagles. What a better way to score a revenge than depriving them from having a crack at defending their crown.

An important development that happened prior to this KO match has been the decision of the UAAP Board to force Ateneo Blue Eagles head coach Po Berasol to serve out his suspension on the game against UST Growling Tigers. Although, I think this will hardly be a factor since Ateneo would definitely be well prepared to cover Coach Perasol’s absence. It will be up to the players of both teams to show how much they want to win and how much effort they would be giving in order for them to book a ticket for the Final Four.

Keys of the Game

O! DEPENSA! (Defense)

Defense wise, the NU Bulldogs exposed a number of things on how to guard Ateneo. I am hoping that the UST coaching staff and players learned a lot from that game and from Nico Baguio’s analysis itself! (wink). On a serious note, UST has a bunch of defensive players who could at least slowdown or disrupt the offense of the Blue Eagles. In their round one encounter, however, Ateneo proved to be the better defensive team as they did a great job denying Karim Abdul of the entry pass. Without Jeric Teng on that game and Abdul unable to operate in the paint, UST’s offense was paralyzed. How the Tigers will turn things around in the defensive battle would be a key point in this game. As mentioned, they have the man power to keep in step with their counterpart, it is up to them how they will utilize these tools to their advantage.

Newsome tries to score over UST tight defense (Photo Credit: Kc Cruz, GMA Network)

Newsome tries to score over UST tight defense (Photo Credit: Kc Cruz, GMA Network)

P P-O P-O-W-E-R the Power! Wooh  (Inside Presence)

Abdul has a lot to prove this season. After being an MVP contender and leading the Tigers to a runner-up finish last season, people expected him to do just the same or even surpass his performance last year. Unfortunately, more big imports arrived and teams learned how to defend him so he wasn’t as dominant as he used to. There were games that Abdul was limited to single digit point production (the Ateneo-UST game was one of them). Abdul was forced to only five attempts in the field and another five attempts from the free throw line, scoring only six points. The combination of excellent denial defense by Ateneo and subpar aggressiveness of Abdul contributed to this. In a do-or-die game like this, UST cannot afford another bad game from Abdul. He has to show his strength and power inside the paint and bring back his MVP like production.

Ravena and Lo battles for a rebound (Photo Credit: August Dela Cruz, Inquirer.net)

Ravena and Lo battles for a rebound (Photo Credit: August Dela Cruz, Inquirer.net)

One for UST (Free Throws)

You’r probably wondering how “One for UST” is related to free throws. UST cheer 101: after every free throw attempt the Yellow Jackets play their Marlboro drumbeat and cheer “One for UST!”.

Moving on, free throws will serve as a key point in this KO match. In their round one encounter, Ateneo practically enjoyed the driver’s seat all throughout the game. But late in the fourth period, UST gave Ateneo a scare and almost snatched the lead and the game away from their claws. The Tigers were able to do this by capitalizing on the Blue Eagles’ struggles at the line. Ateneo missed seven of their 10 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and overall they only managed to hit 55 percent of their free throws while UST converted 78.6 percent of their shots at the charity stripe. With a highly defensive battle, it is expected that each team will bleed for points that’s why every charity that is given to each team should be valued.

Prediction

Knock out game with a Final Four seat at stake – this will surely be a close one. It will be a question of the player’s desire to win, discipline to stick to the game plan and heart. Coach Pido Jarencio’s experience in motivating his players in situations like this will be an advantage for the Tigers but again it is up to the players to do their part. UST’s willingness to get back at Ateneo will be an extra motivating factor and can be turning point for this KO match. UST will win this one in a very close and emotional game.