Courtside Medic: All Heart

I was supposed to watch the UP-ADMU game in Makati but the security didn’t let me in. I was wearing leather sandals and apparently, 'Bawal ang nagsasandals na walang medyas.’ Makati City ordinance. “ This is so nakakainis, ” as one of the sandal-wearers lamented. (an Atenean? hehehe) “ I’d look ridiculous wearing socks with this sandals. ” (Baduy nga naman tingnan.)

I contemplated on buying or renting socks from the nearby neighborhood but they just gave me a cold stare as if buying socks was a fetish. So after I decided that I wouldn’t sacrifice my fashion sense for watching the game, I took a cab home to watch the game on TV (no Ikot jeepney when I need one).

Everyone at home was all for UP but none really expected UP to win. When Nunag tied the game at 43-all, everyone at home were ecstatic. " Hindi tayo tambak!!! Yehey!! " Talk about optimism. But the team was all heart. No more last quarter collapses this time (can’t help but reminisce on the losses last season). Four straight free throws by Bravo and Tabique. (Nakakatawa nga pala expression ni Coach Allan when Tabique was making the free throws. Parang napapaiyak, tapos sabay kabog sa dibdib.) All heart.

I’m glad we survived a dismal 3/18 shooting by Bravo. Goes to show we can win without him scoring 38% of the team’s total score. But his 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals were impressive. Bravo’s poor shooting is probably his fault too. In one play, he was given a double-screen, which left him open for about 1 second. He got the ball but opted for a fake, which gave his defender enough time to catch up with him. And with two defenders in his face, he released an off-balance shot, resulting in an air ball. This happened more than a few times throughout the game.

The first half was Villanueva’s half. He had too many easy put backs. Not enough boxing out. But the good thing was that his 13-pts 1st half output came mostly from put backs and midrange jump shots. At this point Reyes proved he could guard Villanueva in the low post. Ateneo also played an up-tempo game, trying to push the ball up every time. Villanueva did a Shaq impression by bringing the ball up a few times. The first half also saw Ateneo go to early foul trouble. I’m not sure it was that big a factor. The Maroons however gave the ‘Fighting’ tag justice as they continued to hustle. The half ended with Ateneo up by only 3, 27-24. Was the score low because Ateneo shot badly or because UP played good zone defense?

UP however was all heart during the 2nd half, even though they still made bad shot selections. The defense was spectacular. Reyes did a good job on denying Villanueva the easy put backs. I guess that’s why Ateneo tried to get him – baka alam nila na siya lang ang makakacontain kay Villanueva. For the first time this season, I saw four Maroons ganging up to get the rebound. Sumasama na pati si Bravo at Tabique. Great hustle too. Add to that the timely denial of Arnaiz to the slashers of Ateneo. (Mukang 100 charging fouls ang sinalubong ni Arnaiz.)

The 3rd quarter was also Tabique’s quarter. A 3-pt shot just when Ateneo threatened to get away, a lightning quick lay-up (I swear I could have thought that was Tenorio guarding him) and the 3-pt shot to end the 3rd quarter capped off Tabique’s rally. The 4th was Nunag’s. Two straight baskets to tie the ball game at 43-all. Plus a great dish to a cutting Reyes and a lay-up of his own. But Xavi’s overall defense of Tenorio really did it. Team defense was great in the fourth, limiting Ateneo to only 8 points.

After the upset, all eyes will be on the Maroons against DLSU. Another upset? I certainly hope so. But it’ll be a different ball game. The DLSU full-court press remains formidable. Perhaps we just got lucky with Ateneo or we just played well. Whatever it was, the Maroons just have to look down their jerseys to be reminded not to give up without a fight… before MAROONS is the word FIGHTING.