UST must find their 3 Ps as their fate hangs in the balance
MANILA, Philippines - With a few seconds remaining in the game and victory assured for the FEU Tamaraws, UST Growling Tigers guard Ed Daquioag managed to get a steal and had an open lane to the rim.
Maybe Daquioag wanted one highlight dunk to remember for when his collegiate playing career is over. Maybe it was just a reflex, as instinct kicked in once he saw no defender wearing FEU's jersey in his path. Or maybe he wanted to salvage as little as he could in a game that had gone all types of wrong for the Growling Tigers.
Daquioag lifted up to the air, but his athleticism betrayed him. Instead of throwing down a slam that would have sent a few UST fans home with even the slightest bit of joy, he failed to convert the dunk, and the final buzzer sounded not long after. Heads at the Mall of Asia Arena shook in disbelief. Some just raised there arms up as if saying, "Well, what to do?"
It was, to say the least, the appropriate ending to what was an absolutely terrible game for the UST Growling Tigers.
Where's the pride?
Karim Abdul had 24 points and 16 rebounds, but UST lost to FEU, 66-55, on Saturday, August 23 anyway. Outside of Louie Vigil who put up 17 markers, Abdul didn't receive much help, if any at all.
"Ano sasabihin ko?" a disgruntled Abdul quipped after the game. "Wala tayong pride. Yun lang. Wala tayong pride," he chastised his team.
(What am I going to say? We don't have any pride. That's it. We don't have pride.)
"Ano reason ngayon? Malungkot ako, grabe. Kasi hindi ko alam yung future natin this year. Malungkot ako talaga. Bawi lang tayo next time. Paulit-ulit."
(What's the excuse this time? I'm sad, really. Because I don't know what the future holds for this team this season. I'm really sad. I guess we'll just have to say we'll improve next time, as always.)
The Growling Tigers lost their fifth game in Season 77 of the UAAP men's basketball tournament, and in the process dropped to 4-5, sixth in the league standings. From here on out, any loss is unacceptable for UST if they wish to make the Final Four.
Making matters worse, their fate isn't in their hands anymore.
A victory for the Blue Eagles over the Growling Tigers on Sunday, August 31, would put ADMU three games ahead of UST - assuming they beat UP on Wednesday, August 27 - in the loss column (8-3 vs. 5-6) with only three games remaining in the Growling Tigers' schedule. In such event, Ateneo would also own the tiebreaker.
NU (7-3) also beat UST in the first round, and has four games left in their schedule. With UST already trailing the Bulldogs by two games in the loss column, a few more wins for National U would assure them a playoff bid.
"Now we're just going to count on gambling on the other teams. Like this one will lose this game, this one will lose this game. Our fate is within the hands of God. Not in our hands and that's what I didn't want." Abdul said, not hiding his disappointment. "I wanted that we should determine our destiny and not that others should determine our destiny.
It's pretty clear that the UST club doesn't bear resemblance to those of the past few years. Those teams, though under a different head coach, showed pride every time they took the floor. Yielding to the opponent was unacceptable. No lead was safe against the Growling Tigers.
They had pride. So much of it.
But this year is a different story.
"Like I said, wala tayong pride," Abdul said again.
(We don't have pride.)
Palaban. They need it. They need it now.
This was supposed to be Kevin Ferrer's year. With Jeric Teng out of the picture, Ferrer was supposed to become the new King Tiger. However, it was clear from the start that wouldn't be the case, as he started Season 77 in misguiding fashion: 9.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.4 APG while shooting 25% from the field and 17% from 3-point range.
But making matters worse, Ferrer fractured his left hand during an accident in practice prior to his team's game against FEU. And even with him struggling immensely from the field this season, the Growling Tigers could have used his offense against the Tamaraws, or at the least his hard-nosed mentality.
Without Ferrer, UST showed no fight whatsoever, save for Abdul, Vigil and maybe John Sheriff.
"For me.. Kevin's absence is not a reason for us to lose," Abdul made no excuses after the game.
"You know, we talked yesterday (Thursday), and I told the guys that sometimes when I was a bench player, I would pray that a starter would get hurt or get sick so I could prove that I could [play]," he said before adding that his teammates should "do the same thing," and not just give up "because a starter is absent."
"When will they get their chance, right?" Abdul argued.
UST will get to make up for their loss to FEU on Wednesday, August 27, against the 1-8 UP Fighting Maroons. The Growling Tigers should come out with the victory, no excuses at all. If they don't, they can certainly bid farewell to any possibility of making the Final Four, let alone deserve to be in the playoffs.
But after UP, an eager Ateneo Blue Eagle squad awaits the Growling Tigers. Coming off a dismaying loss to the NU Bulldogs, ADMU, without a doubt, will be eager to get back in the winning column.
UST, on the other hand, will be in survival mode, knowing very well it all could end with a second straight loss to the Blue Eagles. And to come out on top, they will need the better side of Aljon Mariano to show up.
"Aljon is a mature guy. He knows what he has to do. He's the captain of the team, right?," Abdul commented about Mariano.
Saying the fifth-year forward's season has been up-and-down would be putting it kindly. After scoring in double-figures just twice in UST's first four games, Mariano caught fire to end the first round of the season, averaging 19.3 PPG in a three-game span.
However, in his last two games, Mariano has put up a total of just 7 points - 0 in UST's forgettable loss to FEU.
"You don't need to tell him what to do. I think he knows his responsibility," Abdul later said about his teammate.
For UST's sake, Abdul better be right about Mariano, otherwise the Blue Eagles could put the Growling Tigers out for good.
Time to show some puso
Coach Pido Jarencio is a lucky man. Coach Bong Dela Cruz, not so much.
At least according to the view of Abdul, who notes that both coaches are more than viable, though the former had players who displayed more "puso" (heart) in games.
"You know, Coach Pido has his ways. Coach Bong has his ways. For me, they're both good coaches," he said.
But here's how they differ.
"Coach Pido was lucky that he had Jeric Teng, Jeric Fortuna, and other players who had heart."
"Coach Bong is not so lucky he doesn't have as many (players) who have the heart to play."
Nevertheless, Jarencio is gone, as he deals with his responsibilities in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Dela Cruz is all UST has, and they will have to ride or die by him for the rest of the season.
The Growling Tigers are in danger of missing the Final Four for the first time in four years, and only for the third time in the last nine seasons. While hope is still alive to avoid such a scenario, it's no secret that their chances are slim, more so with their fate in the hands of their adversaries, as Abdul pointed out.
If UST still believes in their mantra - Pride, Palaban, Puso - then it's time to start showing that just now. Abdul has demanded more out of his teammates, asking them to display more pride in games. UST needs to show as much palaban (fight) as they can as well, or at the least not go down without giving their rivals one hell of a fight.
Puso. It may or may not be enough to make the Final Four. But the Growling Tigers need to at least try.
Before it's all too late. - Rappler.com