Who are the cagers behind the success of the Olympians this season. Jerald Bautista was a mythical 5 selectee last year while Maclean Sabellina is the one manning the middle in this year’s STI College Olympians team. Add to that the playmaking brilliance of 18 year-old rookie point guard Hessed Gabo whose skills is way beyond his age and Power forward Ivan Moreno who likes to get those offensive rebounds, score on put backs and defend well.
Imagine having these four players on your team, that would be instant offense and good defense on your part. Now imagine them not playing on your team in one of the crucial stages of the tournament – the final four. Gabo was whistled for two unsportsmanlike fouls in the game against Fatima while Sabellina was thrown out for fighting. Moreno and Bautista left the bench in the heat of the action to help out Sabellina but were also thrown out – all merited a one game suspension.
But then again, it’s just another challenge for the Olympians who had to face the hottest team in the league, the Informatics Icons who beat the Olympians and league leading UM Hawks in succeeding days. The Olympians on the other hand didn’t mind having the four sit the game out as it went to veterans Norman Ihalas and Cedric Ablaza while rookies Abby Chavez and Jasper Melano came out with their A games while the rest of the Olympians ably supported the band of Zeus in the game that eliminated the Informatics Icons via a surprising 82 – 48 win. The Olympians wanted to make a statement and they really did in this game which a lot of NAASCU fans thought was going down the wire.
The Olympians started the game like a house on fire as they rattled off 10 straight points with veteran Norman Ihalas scoring points off the fast break and Cedric Ablaza scoring inside the paint. The Icons then sued for time, scored a field goal but was never into the game. Rookie Abby Chavez continued what Ihalas started as he buried a three pointer to make the score 13 – 2. The Icons behind main man Mark Montuaño would come back with a 9 – 6 run to narrow the gap at the end of the first quarter as the Olympians went up 19 - 11. The start of the second quarter saw the Icons inch closer as rookie Jan Baltazar started to penetrate the stingy Olympians defense to inch closer against their rivals 16 – 23 with four (4) minutes and forty seven (47) seconds to go in the quarter. That was the cue that forward Abby Chavez needed as he sank a three pointer and a jumper to spearhead an 11- 0 STI run to close the half 34 – 16.
The start of the third quarter was a signal that the Olympians would not be denied as Norman Ihalas opened the third quarter with a three point shot and that was it. The Icons never knew what hit them as the STI team took away their “mojos’ in this game as they would succumb to the pressure of the final four – their first one. The Icons would miss badly from the free throw line and from the field and their offense was in disarray. The Olympians on the other hand played excellent defense which enabled them to coast along the fourth quarter.
Veteran guard Norman Ihalas came up with his best performance so far in the season as he scored 21 points to lead the team while Abby Chavez is steadily becoming another go to guy by the Olympians added 15 points on 3 of 3 shooting from beyond the arc. Cedric Ablaza on the other hand was the steady force inside the paint as he added 13 points while Jasper Melano also came up with superb driving plays to add another 11 points. The four alone accounted for 60 points, more than what the entire Informatics team scored. This is the fifth game that Coach Vic Ycasiano has not coached since he is with the RP 18 and under youth team in Yemen, Coach Hubert delos Santos together with the other coaches, Raymond Tiongco, Pau Ycasiano and Ralph Dizon made superb adjustments to which the Olympians responded.
Focus now shifts on the Finals where the Olympians will meet five time champion and top seed University of Manila who themselves scored an impressive 89 – 61 win over the Centro Escolar Scorpions. Game one of the finals will on Wednesday September 29, 2010. The last time the Olympians were in the finals, they missed 20 free throw shots to lose game 3 against the San Sebastian College Baycats in 2008. This time, with the four suspended players back, look for the Olympians to avenge their two losses to the Hawks. Go STI!
STI COLLEGE (82)
Ihalas 21, Chavez 15, Ablaza13, Melano 11, Morales 5, VIlladoz 4, Bocablo 4, Betayene 4, Daguplo 3, Po 2, Riva 0, Alcantara 0
INFORMATICS ( 48)
Montuano 13, Baltazar 9, Leonida 5, Teodoro 5, Santos, JP 4, Corpuz 3, Limpat 2, Carlos 2, Ungco 2, Acuña 0, Limin 0, Santos K. 0, ,Ubalde 0
Quarterscores: 19 – 11, 34 – 16, 55 – 28, 82 - 48