FINAL FOUR BASKETBALL IS HERE!

This goes by quick, so let’s make it short and sweet. Questions hover over our heads regarding each team. How will each one fare? Who will win? Members of the Humblebola team gathered around a campfire to try and make sense of everything that is to come. 

How do you stop the Ateneo Blue Eagles?

Karlo Lovenia: While it may seem impossible, especially with how they’ve eviscerated teams all season long, there’s a way to stop Ateneo. In their losses versus FEU and Adamson, one thing stuck out; they struggled when the game bogged down and the pressure was amped up. That’s really the best way to beat them. Keep the game close, turn it into a grit and grind affair, and hope you execute in the clutch to steal one away from them. Blowing them out at this point is close to impossible.

Pio Garcia: Pray. Only the wrath of God can stop these people from smacking you around.

In all seriousness though, As much as Ateneo relies of the clinical execution of their sets, it tends to bog down more than they want to. Vince Tolentino, for all his warts, made them really look good and flawless last year with his decision-making in distributing the ball. This year? They don’t have that luxury with Raffy Verano and Will Navarro. Once you stop the dribble-hand offs, cut off the cross screens and pin downs, you’ll be forcing them to go one-on-one. For all their talent, the kids rarely go one-on-one because the coach doesn’t like one-on-one basketball.

Vinz Alcid: At this point, Ateneo’s the clear favorites to win it all. They have a solid system especially defensively and are just finding ways to win ball games. Don’t fall behind early and play Ateneo’s systematic game and make it as ugly as possible and just hope you can somehow pull it off in the end game.

Manganti, Sarr and Ahanmisi are givens for the Adamson Soaring Falcons. But who else has to step up for them in order to avoid a repeat of 2011?

KL: Camacho and Lastimosa have A+ motors, but Jerie Pingoy, this is what you came for. Even though Manganti and Ahanmisi are the anchors of this team, Pingoy’s creation remains a vital tool to how they operate. It’s easy to view it as a luxury compared to the necessity of Jerrick’s shooting, but when the going gets tough, you need a player to give the ball to create. Pingoy is, and should be, that guy.

PG: Jerom Lastimosa. That guy is a damn straight up baller. Y’all can mention Camacho (great motor guy, doesn’t take plays off), Catapusan (quality minutes when he’s on the floor), but Lastimosa just gives the Falcons a different dimension and gear when he’s running things. Manganti is their de-facto ball handler and offense initiator, but when Lastimosa takes control of the rock, the Falcons play faster. Ratratan. And he doesn’t let up. His IQ lets him get to places where it’s an open look or an easy lane to slice up. On the other end of the floor, the guy is a bulldog. What more do you want? He ballhawks responsibly and doesn’t gamble like your newbie point guard.

VA: Simon Camacho. Of course the big three of Manganti, Sarr and Ahanmisi has been getting much of the spotlight for Adamson and rightfully so, but Camacho has been steadily consistent for the Falcons. He just does what is needed for the team and if he steps up big time in the Final four, then expect a finals appearance for Adamson.

Will inexperience be a factor for this Final Four run of the UP Fighting Maroons, their first in 21 years?

KL: Technically, yes, but it feels so tired to use “inexperience” all the time. I’ll make this short and sweet; it will boil down to who wants it more. If UP wants it enough, while playing with the necessary smarts needed to win playoff games, then they’ll have a shot to even make it to the Finals.

PG: Yes and no. It’s an overly used narrative that experience always gives you an upper hand. Sure it does but only to a certain extent of the game, prolong it as a story angle, that’s quite mediocre enough and not giving the winning team enough credit with their preparations.

If you say the Falcons are going to win this by sheer experience, then that’s like saying they just got by because of seniority, dig? Juan and Bright should be fine after the opening jitters of a final four game. Same with Desiderio, Manzo, Dario, and even Tungcab who has been really showing out as of late. They’ll be fine. Trust me on that. As for the coach well…

VA: Inexperience will definitely be a factor. The Final four is just a different kind of animal and if you don’t bring your A game then you’re essentially done. But with the momentum UP is riding, I will not be surprised if they come out guns blazing in their Final four game and who knows, maybe an upset against the Falcons. Given the gravity of their last game against DLSU and managed to take a resounding win, the Maroons should be in an all-time high game confidence and have nothing really to lose after gaining a Final Four spot after 21 years.

Have the FEU Tamaraws done enough to figure things out to make a series out of its showdown with the Ateneo Blue Eagles?

KL: They’re still very unpredictable. I won’t say they’ve done *enough* to gain my trust, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they even make it to the Finals and go all the way for a championship. They’re in the Final Four — which is good — but there’s still some lingering distrust regarding the Tamaraws. Who knows? Maybe they’ve already figured it out. I can’t really answer that. Only FEU themselves know whether they have figured things out.

PG: This is tricky. Arvin Tolentino has been rolling and so has Jasper Parker. Barkley Ebona has been a constant this year but it all boils down to actual execution and well, less of Hubert Cani. To be honest, I have no idea why they are still lost in their own offensive sets as if they have not had a summer or two together. They commit mistakes over and over again in the span of five straight possessions and that can’t sustain you against Ateneo. Not a team that is surgical in each and every offensive and defensive possession.

VA: Yes, FEU has been on a roll lately led by Arvin “Born to Score” Tolentino but there are just too many flaws to their game against a juggernaut like Ateneo. But If the stars align for the Tamaraws then they might give Ateneo a piece of their money especially when they have a cold-blooded clutch assassin in Tolentino.