Monday, August 17, 2009

Ateneo - La Salle (2-0)

We just witnessed over the past two weeks two-straight blockbuster games from the country's greatest rivals, the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the De La Salle Green Archers. Both games were expected to be jampacked, and indeed it was. The UAAP board anticipated the capacity crowd, thus, they decided to release two separate tickets for the double headers that will feature the arch-rivals. Ticket prices from scalpers and opportunists have hiked their prices as though it was already the finals! Sellers from both schools have become more strict, now providing a no-ID, no-ticket policy for buyers, so as to discourage alumni from sending their drivers to fall in line on their behalf.

We witnessed something unusual during the two teams' first encounter. For the first time in UAAP history, both schools have agreed to let go of their team colors and gave the late Former President Cory Aquino a great tribute by wearing the traditional yellow shirt. Around 80% of the stadium wore shirts that had a touch of yellow, while others wore black as a way of mourning for the loss of one of the most beloved leaders of all time. Many thanks to the text brigade that circulate Ateneo and La Salle alumni and alumna. There were a few who did not heed the call, still wearing the traditional colors. Well, probably they did not have a yellow shirt, did not get the text message, or simply did not care.

The first game was a gut-wrenching, heart-stopping spetacle, where both teams never let go of the game until the final stretch. Just when you thought Ateneo was pulling away with the win, De La Salle stars stepped up and hit two-straight three-pointers with less than one minute to go in the 4th quarter. This led the game to a 5-minute extension. But the Blue Eagles came out hungrier and they pulled away with a 4-point win at overtime. Some fans figured that President Cory was on Ateneo's side that game since Ateneo's final score was President Cory's age.

The second encounter fell short of being another memorable game. La Salle's lackluster display gave them a double-digit deficit from the second quarter onwards. During half-time, Ateneo pulled away with a 17-point lead, special thanks to their main man, 6'7 behemoth, surprise-standout Rabeh Al-Hussaini. The team's supporting cast, Eric Salamat, Nico Salva and Nonoy Baclao also brought in quality numbers in the statistical and score boards. It was obvious that La Salle lacked the go-to guy, relying only on youngsters Arvie Bringas and Joshua Webb.

Joshua Webb. He is now the Ateneo's Public Enemy. Special thanks to his unsportsmanly kick of Ateneo's Bacon Austria during the first game and his arrogant (but snappy) salute to the Ateneo crowd during one of his "And One" plays in the second game.

When I watch him play boastfully every La Salle game since his debut in the UAAP Seniors last year, I often stop and think: What are all these arrogance about? What has he achieved that is worth bragging?

Okay. He was the superstar player during his high school days in De La Salle Zobel. He was so "good" that his #10 jersey in high school was retired. Looks like his achievement in high school went too deep in his head. But now in the UAAP Seniors Division? I don't see any achievement yet, except of course being in the All-Rookie team. But of course he did not win the Rookie of the Year award. It was won by no other than the NCAA standout Ryan Buenafe. He did not even get quality minutes during his rookie years. He barely made 4 points every game.

We is lucky to have lost teammates JV Casio and Rico Maierhoffer in season 72. Because of this, he was elevated to the starting lineup. But what has he done in his "quality minutes?" Before the Ateneo-La Salle game, he barely made 8 points a game. And when it was his time to shine, churning 26 points in a game, the team did not register a win. During the second Ateneo-La Salle meeting, he scored 13, a warning from the referee, and double-digit loss. In short, he hasn't proven anything yet. :)

But of course we need someone like that in the team to fire up the teammates and give them the needed motivation. But ofcourse when you toy with the crowd, you start to think if he is worthy of doing such. For me, he is just a playing heckler. During the homestretch yesterday, I saw him ankle-broken by Eric Salamat's crossover plays. Now that is worth bragging!

Mr. Webb, before you get too much air in your head, I think it's about time to think and reflect. Are you there to simply heckle and fool around with your rivals, or is it time for you to really step up and prove that you are no fluke with your basketball talent? Of course we Ateneans want you guys to win so that it will be possible for us to meet again in the final four, or even the finals. We are used to playing with La Salle more than twice since 2001, and losing you in the Final Four would make the season incomplete. That's why Mr. Webb, it's about time you get your act together and wake up! You're no longer in your High School dreamland! Welcome to the UAAP!

Right now, Ateneo is at 8-1. We hope that the streak continues so that we would once again see Ateneo win a championship back-to-back for the first time in 21 years! But it's perfectly okay to lose against UP again in the second round. :)

Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!

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