September 30, 2013
Match Made in Heaven
Yes I know this is tad late. I was supposed to post it a few days ago but was bumped off by the Teng-kyu, Teng-kyu article I wrote that was more a little bit urgent. But as they say, its better late than never, right?
So here we are. One day before D-Day. La Salle vs. University of Santo Tomas for the UAAP Season 76 title. Green vs Yellow. Quiet, straight-to-the-point Juno Sauler versus the emotional, talkative and joke-laced Pido Jarencio. Jeron Teng vs Jeric Teng. And as the title suggest, this is a match made in heaven.
Truly it is.
And this isn’t just a simple story.
This one is full of subplots.
Let’s talk about their head-to-head encounter in the UAAP finale. The Tigers had the Archers’ numbers as they won their first three meetings as part of their mighty four-peat from 1993 to 1996. The Taft-based school got its revenge in 1999 when a determined team of Ren Ren Ritualo, Don Allado, Dino Aldeguer and then team captain Francis Zamora, who is Vice Mayor of San Juan now, beat the boys from Espana River and Dapitan Falls. Ask former UST coach Aric del Rosario, who is with the Perpetual Help Altas now in the other league, the NCAA, and he’ll tell you he’s still heartbroken about it just thinking of that fateful season.
But past is past. Let’s tackle the future instead. The league’s best two coaches, UST’s Pido Jarencio and La Salle’s Juno Sauler will try to outwit each other. The winner gets the championship and the unofficial tag as Coach of the Year. Whatever happens, Sauler and Jarencio get my vote as Coaches of the Year. Or you could look at the angle of brothers Jeric and Jeron Teng taking on each other. Imagine where their father, Alvin “The Robocop” Teng, will cheer and what color he will wear. He’ll probably wear a green shirt and yellow pants and chant Animo La Salle and Go USTe on the same breath just to be partial.
And this is just the prologue. The preview is coming in a few. So we’re summoning Madam Auring again and Chris Mannix. And here it goes.
Why it would win. I was rummaging through the stats provided for by UAAP statistics man Pong Ducanes of Smart Bro-powered Imperium and I discovered the Archers have a deeper roster and own a most potent offensive punch. We will not count the ways and just explain it simply. La Salle has Jeron Teng, who is the team’s Kevin Durant, who is incidentally his idol. He can shoot, rebound, pass, disrupt the passing lanes and block shots, eerily like the Durantula. Interestingly, he’s also the team’s top facilitator since their guards, LA Revilla and Almond Vosotros are more “points” guard than running the point. Which is not that bad since La Salle’s play emanates from Jeron. Did I say he is also clutch? La Salle also owns the size advantage thanks to Norbert “Bear” Torres, Jason Perkins and Arnold Van Opstal or AVO. They’re also on a nine-game streak, which should give them momentum and confidence going into Game One.
Why it would not. Jeron’s free throws will be a factor. It could make or break their campaign. Vosotros’ recent shooting woes could also pose a problem. He must come out of his shell because the Archers would need not just his shooting but also his leadership. Another hand outside Jeron would be pivotal, perhaps a series-changer.
Why it would win. Aside from claims that God is a Thomasian, the Tigers have the experience and toughness to go all the way. They have smaller but quicker and more versatile big men who can outsmart and elude La Salle’s bigger frontcourt. Jeric Teng has something to prove and wants to go out of the UAAP with a bang. He showed that when he stepped up in crucial games like in that one against Ateneo for the last Final Four berth and the two Final Four wins over NU. I mean, he’s determined to end his career with a championship. Even if it came at the expense of his little bro. They also have the series most dangerous defensive force in Kevin Ferrer, who has all the tools to contain, if not completely neutralize, Jeron. That Sheak Sheriff guy is a revelation. Tough as nail. Man for man, UST’s starters are better than La Salle. Imagine: Karim Abdul at center. Ferrer at power forward. Aljon Mariano at small forward. Jeric at shooting guard. Clark Bautista or Sheriff opr Kim Lo at the point. That’s a killing a machine out there. I’m scared for La Salle.
Why it would not. The lack of support outside the starters could spell doom for UST. Jarencio uses around eight or a nine-man rotation. If this series go the distance, the bench depth will decide it.
Spormaryosep’s prognosis: It will boil down on the chess match between Sauler and Jarencio. The one who gets to consolidate his pieces well wins. I also think that this series will hinge on how the Tengs play. When the Tigers beat the Archers, 63-58, at the MOA Arena in the first round last June 29, Jeric led all scorers with 23 points and Jeron just a miserly 10. When La Salle struck back in its return match with a vengeful 69-64 win last Sept. 14 also at MOA, Jeron starred in that game with 19 points while Jeric struggled and wound up with just 10 points. So if Jeric steps up and Jeron falters, UST wins. The same goes otherwise. What if they both erupt? That will be a spectacle to see.
Dear referees, this is a heavenly match. Save us a classic a finale. The Pope is probably checking Twitter updates. So don’t you dare mess this up. If you do, we hope you don’t rot in hell.
(Photos courtesy of Paul Ryan Tan, Filoil Flying V and Juno Sauler)