The Arena, San Juan
October 15, 2013
After just a few days, the pain caused by University of Santo Tomas’ Game Three loss to La Salle in UAAP Season 76 still lingers. There was a heated discussion at this San Juan City venue, which hosts the Shakey’s V-League Championship between Smart and Cagayan in an hour, about what went wrong. Sportswriters like Marivic Awitan of Balita, Theodore Jurado of People’s Journal, Mark Giongco of Inquirer.net, Kristel Satumbaga-Villar of the Manila Bulletin and even strong-opinioned photographers August dela Cruz of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Jun Mendoza of The Philippine STAR discussed, debated and almost killed each other debating about the matter. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and all decided its probably not meant to be for the Tigers.
After my previous blog Gone USTe where we shared The Philippine STAR sports editor Lito Tacujan’s UST eulogy, I will share another beautiful piece written by another seasoned sports scribe, Ding Marcelo, sports editor of the Manila Bulletin. It’s titled “So near, yet so far.” He has an interesting point. And here it is.
“So near, yet so far”
by Ding Marcelo
October 14, 2013
I feel sorry for University of Santo Tomas coach Pido Jarencio. The UAAP basketball championship was, as they say, so near yet so far.
UST, which Pido had coached with tactics marked by benign cajoling to brutal screaming, was seconds away from what would have been one of UAAP’s greatest championship runs.
The team survived three must-win games and then had two big chances to win that trophy.
But it was not to be. Their fourth must-win game fell agonizingly short.
Thanks to one of his stars, Aljon Mariano, and the fellow’s unexpected decision to become a hero, UST will spend the rest of the Christmas season wondering what went wrong.
There are many reasons.
While the TV sideline reporters were eagerly interrupting the coverage with their nonsense, UST’s Karim Abdul was being given his third foul in the third quarter.
That third foul, which went unnoticed and under-analyzed by TV commentators, was one of the key reasons why UST lost.
When Abdul continued to play with three fouls, he became tentative, ineffective on defense, and apparently shackled by strict orders not to commit another foul under any circumstance.
That was disastrous. What followed was painful to watch. The Green Archers saw blood and, like sharks, swallowed Abdul whole and decimated the rest of the Growling Tigers without pity.
It was then that the Archers quickly erased a 15-point deficit and brought the game to overtime.
The game was still on the line until Aljon Mariano made the mistake that will haunt him and UST forever. After grabbing the rebound, UST ahead 69-68, Mariano passed the ball to no one, in an error that led to a La Salle basket and proved to be the game’s winning shot.
Earlier, it was again Mariano who made the final shot in regulation, missing badly and sending the game to OT.
What was Mariano thinking?
What was Pido thinking?
Under most circumstances, with the title on the line, the ball would go to the star of the team. That would be Jeric Teng or Karim Abdul, or perhaps even Kevin Ferrer. Should they miss, that would at least be easier to live with.
In the NBA, or in any important game in any conference, the ball would be in the stars’ hands. That would be Kobe or Jordan, Durant or Tony Parker.
I now wonder what Pido told him after the game. Unless, of course, it was Pido’s order to have Mariano take the ball and take the most important shot of the day. If that be the case, Pido should find another job.
Some observers are also now critical of Pido’s decision to let Jeric, his star shooter, deliver the in-bound pass in the final seconds of regulation and overtime.
That decision deprived Jeric the all-significant seconds to get that ball. True enough, it was not Jeric who would take what could have been the winning basket, not once but twice!
No question, the UST fan base would have accepted the bitter loss more philosophically, or less grudgingly, had the final shot been made by Jeric or Karim, the two players most responsible for bringing them at the doorstep of history.
But Mariano? The guy had never been a factor and had not even made a field goal the entire game. He took matters into his own hands anyway, failed miserably, and now deserves to spend his Christmas somewhere where good cheer and merry wishes are not expected.
But this is not to devalue the Green Archers’ victory.
They played their guts out, rallied from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter, and proved themselves real champions by staying focused under the most trying conditions.
Following their win, the Archers are sure to be hot favorites to do a repeat or make history or even create a dynasty.
As for UST, an opportunity like last Saturday’s will probably take a long time to come. Maybe, long after Pido and Mariano are gone.
Sportsmaryosep postscript: Happy birthday to The Philippine STAR’s Abac Cordero, one of the best in the business. Alakpa! Hik!
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
(Photos by Paul Ryan Tan and Jun Mendoza of The Philippine STAR)