Before I begin, some of you may have noticed that I was missing from cyberspace for about three weeks or so – from late July till mid-August. Well, I wasn’t off on vacation somewhere or simply got lazy. Truth is, I was struck by a medical problem whose after-effects still linger. I have to include therapy in my weekly schedule now, as I bid to regain full mobility and am thankful I have friends to help ease my financial burdens.
And this is where I thank them – Mandaluyong Mayor Ben Hur Abalos, horseowner Hermie Esguerra, my old college buddies from Latak-UP like Agnes, Loudette, Jojo, Louie, Cha and everyone else, plus my friends from www.fhren.com.ph led by Dennis Gonzalez. Also, my sportscasting buddies Bill Velasco, Ed Picson and Pia Boren, if I can contact her again.
Yup, seems my horseracing and college connections came through for me in my time of need. I haven’t yet approached my basketball friends but I’m sure they will come through when I ask for some badly-needed assistance.
Now that that’s settled, Letran has moved within a game of fourth spot in the NCAA and with about five games left, both JRU and Perpetual Help, the teams currently tied for third and fourth just a game ahead of the Knights, must be quaking in their boots and if not, they should be.
The Altas had looked like they were on their way to locking up their first Final Four slot since 2004 when they beat JRU last Monday in convincing fashion. And when they took a 17-point lead over the inconsistent EAC Generals last Saturday, they looked every bit the contender that they have been playing like most of the season.
But Gerry Esplana’s charges had other plans. Suddenly, Jan Jamon and company started raining threes like there was no tomorrow. And Jett Vidal, who hit the game-winning triple in their first-round encounter, could not duplicate his heroics, allowing Emilio Aguinaldo College to escape with a 73-71 that kept its very faint Final Four hopes alive.
Last Thursday, Letran ran over Lyceum as Kevin Alas shone offensively and Raymond Almazan kept the Pirates out of the shaded area, perhaps making coach Louie Alas think of the “could have beens” if the 6-7 beanpole slotman had been available to play the entire season. Almazan missed most of the first round by missing plenty of practices but since the Bataan native has re-dedicated himself to the team, the Knights have gone 3-1 in the second round.
The Knights still have to play JRU and San Sebastian in the second round but the rest of their games – Arellano, CSB and Mapua, seem winnable but 10-8 may not be enough for a Final Four slot so beating either of the current Final Four clubs, preferably the Bombers, and the Knights might gain at least a playoff for an NCAA semis spot if not an outright berth.
And then there’s San Beda, which rolled to a 67-45 rout over JRU that may have left the Heavy Bombers so battered and bruised that Vergel Meneses may have to work his Aerial Voyager magic to make his boys believe in themselves again. Coach Ronnie Magsanoc’s boys streaked to their fourth straight win behind another solid defensive effort, and the Red Lions looked to be having so much fun on the court, accepting their respective roles in the Point Lauerate’s scheme of things.
After losing to the Stags at the end of the first round, San Beda opened the second round by routing bottom-of-the-table Lyceum, 77-47. The Lions followed that up with an emphatic 74-56 drubbing of College of St. Benilde and then squeaked past Letran, 68-62 to give them an average winning margin of 19 points per game in the second round so the defending champions are really rounding into post-season form.
Now, the big winner in the UAAP last week was NU, getting boosts off and on the court. Last Thursday, the UAAP board reversed the decision of the technical committee and Commissioner Ado Badolato, ruling that RR Garcia’s last-second buzzer beater lifting FEU past NU was inconclusive after replays.
From what I know, when replays prove inconclusive, that means the original call, in this case counting the basket, should stand. Instead the board, six of whose members are non-basketball people but who probably understand a financial bonanza when it shows up, instead ordered a replay of the second round-game between NU and FEU on September 23, a game that figures to be a box-office hit since it figures to have monstrous impact on the race for Final Four slots.
The Bulldogs, buoyed by their second chance, then closed the weekend with a 72-62 win over Final Four hopeful rival La Salle behind a great 32-point effort by Bobby Ray Parks, who looks a good bet to make it back-to-back MVP awards at the end of the season.