By Frankie Serrano
“Know what you’ve done.”
Those were Tab’s audible words right before the opening tip of Game Two. And in a way, it was ominous. They were fighting words. It was as if somebody lit a fire under the calm demeanor always displayed by the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ coach and it did not bode well for anyone.
It was a Ceasarian thumbs down. The nastiest thumbs down I can ever live down. It was a call to action for a finish. And unleashing a weapon of adamantium-filled mass destruction upon the hapless UP Fighting Maroon, as one tito kindly pointed out.
“Hail Ateneo Hail!” has been on loop in the wee hours of the night, right after that thumbs down unleashed the most all-time performance I’ve watched among all-time performances in local college basketball history.
38 points on just 18 shots. Six rebounds. Six assists. Three steals. Two Weapon X celebrations. One huge shadow left behind.
Ferdinand Ravena III, was it you or was that LeBron James versus Boston Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Finals?
Seriously man. I’ve run out of words to use on your game. It’s just, I don’t know. I just really can’t describe it. It was like you are in a different stratosphere, that you were on your own and everyone else was looking up to you, well, probably except Ange Kouame because he’s flying like an eagle next to you.
One of my favorite writers even went as far as saying that the entire UAAP Finals was your mixtape. I quite disagree. It should’ve been the entire Final Four was YOUR mixtape starting with that absolute demolition job on the FEU Tamaraws.
Then in the first game of the UAAP Finals, you almost had a triple-double. 21 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists. I was at Pop Up in Katipunan, and the only way I could keep track was to mentally count. Even then, I was speechless.
You were throwing backdoor passes to OPEN SPACES. Not to your teammates, but a certain spot at the floor where you just know that they will be there, like you got the Time Gem from Dr. Strange or something. It was unreal. Why? Because a year ago, you were not doing this. A year ago, it resulted in turnovers.
I’ve mentioned quite early to our boss here that the reason you racked up turnovers alongside your assist numbers in what I described as your “leap year,” that time period where you just bust out the gates and tell everybody “Yo, this is new and improved and I’m about to own this thing.” The reason was this: your basketball IQ and feel for the game has greatly expanded through whatever magical means of the Reality Gem Tab Baldwin held.
That newfound feel made you think three plays ahead, know where your teammates should be rather than where they would be. They just couldn’t keep up with the speed your basketball mind worked back then. But this year? Oh man. Oh. Man.
When I penned that piece, I kept telling our boss that if you improved your jumper, at any point in time, before you reach your peak age as an athlete, it’s game over. You already had the physical tools, the mental tools courtesy of Tab was there, growing, but it was a reliable jumper that lacked the entire arsenal.
But to do it in the middle of a season? Display it in the Final Four? And the ease with which you just do things on the court? Like how you lull your defenders into thinking they shut the door on your initial drive only for you to drop a sick no-look sling to a backdoor-cutting Raffy Verano?
No Ferdinand, not even I was smart enough to even think far ahead regarding your development, even if it’s a favorite hobby of mine when I watch basketball players.
Seriously Ferdinand, I’ve ran out of things to say. Every damn play you made turned my legs into jelly because you made it look so easy, because you just toyed with the defense and probably said okay watch me do this, then do that, or how about this one?
Then Game Two happened.
Keen observers would notice this, and correct me if I am wrong here Ferdinand Ravena III, but everytime UP brought that lead down critically close in the first half, you played point, got that ball, and became the offense’s conductor. Was that part of the plan? Or was that just part of your growth as a player?
Anyway, it felt like, to me, who has watched and written about basketball, the UP runs were just there and I had nothing to worry about as a Blue Eagle diehard. You didn’t look rattled at all. I’m pretty sure you knew what they were going to do and what they will even try to do, not knowing that you aren’t the Ferdinand Ravena III we saw in the Season 79 Finals. Or the Season 80 Finals.
Believe it or not, the entire Finals series had your fingerprints all over them, Ferdinand. It doesn’t matter whether you scored, you rebounded, you assisted, you stole, or you damn snatched their soul with a nasty chasedown (Hi Mr. Murrell, nice to know you). As much as the #BEBOB celebrates teamwork more than everything, I think I’ll have to be the one to say it.
This was a Thirdy Ravena finals. We’re just, as one more writer who I respect (we may not agree on anything but Ateneo, and that counts for me) puts it, #ThirdyPartyOberservers.
This is you, Ferdinand Ravena III, stepping out of your big brother’s shadow, with the performance of a lifetime, an all-timer brutal closeout game.
This was Thanos doing the Snap.
You were on a different stratosphere, King Eagle Ferdinand, First of his name.
As you held my friend’s WWE belt high over your head, in front of the Ateneo crowd, I was just there all in awe of a transcendental King Eagle, shining bright in his Ultra Instinct mode, brighter than Son Goku himself.
One more year, Ferdinand. I’m looking forward to whatever new thing you are going to bring. I cannot contain my excitement even if we just won the 10th UAAP title, and 24th overall in school history. With the massacre I’ve seen last night? I’m looking forward to more.