At 3:30 this afternoon, two colors will collide. One is red, the other is blue. The hostilities started last week. In Game 1 of the UAAP basketball finals, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) beat the University of the East (UE). That victory was expected. The leaders during the elimination round, Ateneo was dominant and authoritative. But in last Sunday’s Game 2, when the Araneta Coliseum was to have been awash in blue, the red-blooded UE squad turned their opponents blue—as in gloomy and unhappy blue. For the Red Warriors did not just defeat the Blue Eagles, they obliterated them with the score 88-68.
(This photo and the one below from www.inboundpass.com)
Now. This 3:30 p.m. It’s Red vs. Blue Part III. The clash between the expected-to-win Ateneo versus the aiming-for-an-upset UE. For the Blue Eagles, its an attempt to win back-to-back titles after the Chris Tiu-led squad last year. For the Red Warriors, it’s looking to end a 24-year drought. They’re also trying to duplicate what the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) accomplished in 2006 when, after losing the first game to Ateneo, UST won the next two.
John Cheu, a good friend and fellow member of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), graduated from Ateneo with an Economics degree in 1975. His batchmates include prominent Cebuanos Mario King, Nelson Go, Jack Huang, Francis Onglatco, Renato Ong and Marvin Pineda.
An Ateneo basketball fanatic, I asked John, What happened to Ateneo in Game 2? “I don’t think the ADMU players were over confident,” he said. “In fact, they played too tentatively. UE played its best game of the season so far.”
What does his team have to do today? “ADMU has to go back to playing the way they have been playing UE all season long,” said John. “The inside game has to be established early in the game by having Rabeh Al-Hussaini the ball and making the shots or kick it out to Jai Reyes or the guards to make the 3-point shots.”
I asked about the 6-foot-6 Ateneo center. “Rabeh has what it takes to be a really good player,” said John. “He has all the skills and moves but he lacks mental maturity. He is easily distracted by other players and gets into foul trouble very early. It doesn’t help also that he seems to be a magnet for foul calls by the referees so far.”
I next queried why the UAAP, even in Cebu, is so popular. “The UAAP is so closely followed because of the rivalries of the schools. The ADMU-DLSU (La Salle) games are so intense that tickets are even harder to get than the PBA games. When you watch a ADMU-DLSU game live at the Araneta Coliseum, the atmosphere is electric. The cheering is non-stop and armchair analysts abound (me included).”
Finally, I asked another close friend and fellow BCBP member, though biased because he, too, calls the color blue his favorite, for his analysis.
Jourdan Polotan said: “It is going to be a close and exciting match. UE will put up a great fight, but Ateneo will prevail.”