Eagles fly free from the storm
The storm Far Eastern University needed did not hit shore last Saturday.
There were some subtle signs that winds were whirling and rain clouds were assembling to mess up Ateneo’s four-peat celebration.
In the second quarter, the gutsy Tamaraws overturned a 10-point lead to grab the upper hand at the half, 36-35.
But it was their last stand: FEU the slugger was nipped again by the counter-punching Blue Eagles, who adjusted their flight plans when they saw the storm gathering on their radars.
It was Ateneo’s bench that delivered sterling performances, challenging the coaching philosophy that you have to shorten your lineup in the playoffs so that the core has a better feel of playing together.
Justin Chua, Juami Tiongson and Tonino Gonzaga got off the bench to compliment Nico Salva, Kiefer Ravena and Eman Monfort’s solid performances.
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Ateneo went on to mark the number four as a significant one in its school sports history: It became the fourth team to win four straight UAAP titles.
The list includes La Salle, University of Santo Tomas and Baby Dalupan’s University of the East Warriors.
Norman Black now has a firm grip on the coaching formula needed to win in the college ranks. The teacher in him comes to the fore with the Eagles, especially his tutelage of the big men.
The Black alumni list includes Ford Arao, Doug Kramer, Rabeh al-Hussaini and Nonoy Baclao. Greg Slaughter, already tall and talented, has become more patient when double teams surround him.
Having a reliable big man is still a sound basketball dictum, no matter how many talented guards or wing men you have.
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At the festive PBA Press Corps Awards Night at the Gateway Suites last Friday, the previous season’s top performers received the kudos of the men and women who chronicle their feats.
It was the night for saluting achievements and a time for the sportswriters to come together to organize, produce and execute this annual toast.
Talk ‘N Text owner Manny V. Pangilinan accepted his Executive of the Year award and talked about pursuing the dream of bringing back a Philippine team to the Olympics in his acceptance speech.
Some may dismiss this pursuit as aimless, given that we will never come close to winning a medal in the Olympiad.
But that’s not the point: Pangilinan’s dream is to see the Philippines being recognized again as one of the world’s best basketball-playing countries.
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It was an honor we enjoyed as the king of Asian hoops from the 1950s to the 1970s, and as one of the best in the world with a fifth-best finish when basketball was first played in the Olympics in 1936 and third place in the 1954 World Championships.
We are still a basketball country and this passion can be translated into forms where we can earn honor and prestige for the Philippines.
Getting back to the Olympics is one such way. Our belief that the Filipino is among the best basketball players in the world must be appreciated not only by us but by everybody else.