MANILA, Philippines – If Game One between Ateneo and UST was key, the first quarter of Game Two is huge.
How does UST come out? And how does Ateneo respond to what changes the Growling Tigers promised?
A game is four quarters, but how this will play out will be seen in this first quarter and half. If Ateneo seizes another early lead, then that is going to be tough to overhaul.
The Growling Tigers now have three days to prepare for this and what adjustments do they make? How do they get other players involved in the offense? How do get that ball to Soulemane Chabi Yo as quickly as possible? How many screens do they need to throw to free up Renzo Subido? They need Rhenz Abando to contribute.
They got hurt by the early press in which they struggled to get that ball across. You can bet the other players got tired trying to chase those long balls while being closely guarded. Although they got in huge licks via Mark Nonoy’s three-point shooting when Ateneo answered that run that saw a 19-point lead whittled down to three, by going on a tear that saw the Blue Eagles post an even higher lead of 23.
At that point, in my opinion, it was just a matter of closing out UST because the Blue Eagles had taken the Growling Tigers’ best shot.
Any other match, Ateneo might have paid for UST’s three-point barrage of 14 treys, but their defense was very good and their offense even better that they still won by 14 points.
It also cannot be on the offense end that UST makes their adjustments. How do they stop Thirdy Ravena who has turned these past three finals into his own playground? Angelo Kouame was superb (although he need to finish better) while SJ Belangel answered Nonoy’s early fireworks with his own three-point display.
Ateneo will not want UST to equalize. They will try to finish this off.
The Blue Eagles gave UST a different look by doing a whole bunch of different plays. You think they still have something in their playbook?
Stands to reason… yes.
Expect other Blue Eagles to step it up a notch as they try to close out what has been a short and cramped season (owing to the upcoming Southeast Asian Games).
The biggest asset of the Blue Eagles is their mental preparation (in addition to their conditioning). While their fans feel that this is all but over, Tab Baldwin has conditioned his team to think of this as another game albeit one they need to close out. The second half of a game, as he put it.
He does not have them thinking of a sweep. That is for sportswriters to write about later, Baldwin says. It’s taking care of business.
They answered questions about how they come out after a long lay-off. Now, they will they be ready to handle UST’s desperate bid to send this into a final game?
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