Friday, September 26, 2008

ATENEO wins 4th UAAP Title

We are the Championship!!!

Jai Reyes got the ball and dribbled the length of the court and his last halfcourt heave did not even touch the ring as the Eagles lose the championship after winning game 1….Chris Tiu did not play in the final two minutes of the game and JV Casio took over as the de La Salle Green Archers beat the Ateneo Blue Eagles...

These were the things that were on the minds of the Ateneo Blue Eagles going into game 2 of the UAAP Championships as their experience in the 2006 Finals against the UST Tigers and the Final Four loss to DLSU last year helped them come up with the right frame of mind, intensity and firepower which was a fitting climax to what can be described as a near perfect season for the men in Blue. As Coach Norman Black said, “We know what we are up against, and we know they are capable of coming back!” That was the mindset of the Blue Eagles and it was enough motivation for them to focus on and not be rattled in every move that the men in green would do. The Ateneo Blue Eagles took the title from the defending UAAP champions, the De La Salle Green Archers in game 2 of the Best of three series as they eked out a 62-51 win to give Ateneo its fourth UAAP Men’s Senior Basketball championship. The victory was a great send off to one of the best clutch shooters in Ateneo history, team Captain Chris Tiu and his sparring mate and co-captain Yuri Escueta.

Ferdinand did not score again after taunting the Ateneo crowd

For the first time this season the de La Salle Green Archers started strong as Bader Malabes and Ferdinand scored the first four points of the game in the wake of the leech like defense of the thump and bump La Salle team. The Blue Eagles were forced to four early turnovers by the vaunted La Salle defense and were hard press to adjust. As a result of the taunting, Ryan Buenafe was whistled a technical foul which added another free throw to their score courtesy of JV Casio, DLSU was no up 5-0. With still 7:47 left in the first quarter nothing was going Ateneo’s way, and to make matters worse, newly awarded UAAP Season 71 MVP Rabah Al-Husaini was whistled for his second personal foul. This prompted Coach Norman Black to send Nonoy Baclao in right away who opened up the scoring for the Blue Eagles as he dumped a three pointer to beat the shot clock with 7:23 left. Simon Atkins answered on the other end with a three point shot of his own that gave the Green Archers an 8-3 lead. Then Chris Tiu, Ryan Buenafe, Mike Baldos, Jobe Nkemakolam and Bacon Austria took turns to score as the five men came to the rescue as the rest of the Eagles showed what stuff they are made off when they uncorked a 13-2 bomb to take the upperhand 16-10 at the end of the first quarter. After settling down on the wake of the La Salle intense start, the Blue Eagles held the Green Archers to just one field goal in the last 7 minutes of the first quarter.

Mike Baldos pushed and shoved
and scored 6 points against the DLSU Big men

The second quarter started with the league MVP on the bench with two fouls, that was the cue that Chris Tiu needed to come out with his A-game as he displayed a shooting clinic. Chris scored seven straight points in a span of thirty seconds. Tiu started by shooting two free throws off a technical foul on Rico Maierhofer for taunting Nonoy Baclao. He followed that up with a three point shot on their ball possession and scored again on a bank shot off a screen. In a wink of an eye the Blue Eagles were suddenly up by ten 27-17 which prompted Coach Franz Pumaren to call a timeout. The Green Archers got going with two three pointers courtesy of JV Casio and Hyram Bagatsing. Unfortunately for them, the Blue Eagles found another unlikely hero as Jobe Nkemakolam scored six points while the rest of the team chipped in to help the Warlock as the Blue Eagles raced to a 41-26 halftime lead. The Blue Eagles had an impressive 70% scoring clip in the second quarter as they showed that even if Rabah is sitting on the bench they can still have other people to carry the scoring load.

Jobe got 8 points on 4 of 4 shooting in 9 minutes

It’s JV Casio’s last year with the Green Archers and for him he has made ways to score as evidenced in the last game after he scored a measly five points in their second round encounter. Together with the rest of the Green Archers JV led his team to another round of non stop pressure defense as the third quarter started with him sinking his second three pointer. After converting JV stole the ball from Jai Reyes and he fed off a cutting Rico Maierhoffer who scored on a lay up to give the Green Archers five straight points in less than 30 seconds. In an instant the 15 point Ateneo lead vanished into thin air. JV was on fire as he teamed up with LA Revilla and James Mangahas to cut the 41-26 lead to just three after three quarters 50-47 as Casio sank three triples. The Ateneo relied on Rabah AL-Husaini who scored 7 of the Blue Eagles 9 third quarter points.

Ateneo adjusted when Rabah got into foul trouble
DLSU faultered when Rico went out

One important development that happened was the ejection of Rico Maierhofer who was whistled for his second technical foul with 1:31 to go in the third quarter. According to the referees Rico allegedly pointed a dirty finger to Rabah which is an act of taunting according to the referees. He was whistled with the same infraction in the first quarter that threw him out of the game. The banishment of Rico cut the life out of the La Salle rally and all things went downward from thereon.

Nonoy Baclao is Season 71's Finals MVP

If the first two quarters showed that Ateneo can be awesome, the fourth quarter was a test of wills as the Blue Eagles went 0 of 8 from the field in the first 7 and a half minutes. On the other hand, they also shut down the Green Archers as they gave only a solitary field goal to the Green Archers in 11 attempts as both teams played ugly ball. The only bright spot for the Blue Eagles was their free throw shooting which started with Chris Tiu nailing three straight free throws after Bader Malabes fouled him while taking a three point shot. Those free throws gave the Blue Eagles more breathing space as they took a 53-47 lead. The Green Archers were still pretty much in the game even after Nonoy Baclao scored on a free throw for a 55-49 Ateneo lead with 3:02 left. Unfortunately for them and with 2:50 left in the game, JV Casio was whistled for an offensive foul which was his fifth and Casio was sent to the bench permanently, and together with him was DLSU’s hopes of back to back titles which went with the floods of Taft Avenue. If Ateneo scored only 9 third quarter points, Ateneo returned the favor by limiting the Green Archers to 4 fourth quarter points.

Rabah was out of sync but Ateneo still won

The most pivotal play of the game came when Nonoy Baclao got his fifth offensive rebound as he kept the ball alive again and passed the ball to Jai Reyes who in turn scored the second field goal of the team in the fourth quarter that gave Ateneo a commanding 59-49 with only 1:21 left in the game. With still plenty of time left, the Blue Eagles in the bench put on their Champion Shirts and Caps as the 4th quarter defensive dominance of the Blue Eagles showed once again with DLSU missing their last 5 shots which gave Ateneo its fourth Title in the UAAP.

"Ang Sarap Maging Atenista"

In the end, the Green Archers relied too much on Casio and Maierhofer and nobody stepped up big when the two were out. The Archers were 19 of 68 from the field or 27.9 %. They were 10 of 32 from beyond the Arc but were just 3 of 8 from the free throw line. In contrast, the Blue Eagles were 21 of 45 (46.7 %), 18 of 28 (64.3%) from the stripe but was just 2 of 14 (14.3%) from beyond the arc. Nonoy Baclao was declared the finals MVP for he was the only consistent force in the two games. This time around he got 8 points, 10 rebounds and 4 block shots as he anchored the Ateneo defense which was impenetrable by ALL Green Archers.

Oping : This one's for you Rico!

This is the first time that the Ateneo won a UAAP title with a non rookie coach. The 1987 Team - Cris Calilan , 1988 – Fritz Gaston, 2002 – Joel Banal were all rookie Coaches when they won their titles while Coach Norman is now in his fourth year . At the same time, the 16-1 record of the Blue Eagles this season is the best ever in Ateneo history. It surpasses the 14-1 season of the 1987 team (there was no final four then and ADMU was twice to beat then) and the 15-1 season of the 1976 NCAA Champion team (13-1 eliminations plus sweep of best of three). This marked also the third time in the UAAP that Ateneo has beaten DLSU in a championship match with the last two coming with DLSU as the defending champions.
Like what Chris Tiu said, the best feeling is beating the defending Champions.

Thanks for the memories Chris
Thanks Coach Norman




The scores:

Ateneo (62 )

Tiu 16, Baclao 8, Nkemakolam 8, Al-Hussaini 7, Baldos 6, Buenafe 5, Reyes 5, Salamat 3, Austria 2, Escueta 2.

De La Salle (51 )

Casio 18, Walsham 8, Maierhofer 7, Revilla 5, Atkins 3, Bagatsing 3, Mangahas 3, Ferdinand 2, Malabes 2, Barua 0, Villanueva 0.

Quarter scores: 16-10; 41-26; 50-47; 62-51

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