UAAP Basketball Finals
Nash Racela, head coach of the FEU Tamaraws, watched intently the UST-NU game last Saturday, November 21. He was seen taking down notes. He must have written down that the UST players either pressed or trapped or double teamed Gelo Alolino, NU’s playmaker and top scorer. Because of that game-long defense on him, Gelo was limited to just six points, causing NU to go down in defeat and out of the UAAP Finals.
So, Nash prepared his top scorers Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo against UST’s choking defense. In Game 1 of the UAAP championship series Wednesday afternoon, the FEU players broke fast just as soon as they got the defensive rebound, and drove straight to the basket, preventing the Growling Tigers from trapping or double teaming the driving Tamaraw. On the times the UST players were able to get back on defense and clog the paint, the driving Tamaraw kicked the ball out to a teammate beyond the arc for a 3-point attempt. As the Tamaraws had height advantage and UST is the worst team in rebounding, FEU players easily put back missed shots.
Nash’s game plan worked, FEU beating UST for the first time this season. I can’t wait to see what adjustments Bong de la Cruz, UST head coach, will make for Saturday’s game, a do-or-die game for the Growling Tigers. Bong, just on his second year as a UAAP coach, has proved to be a good strategist. That is why UST is top seed in the Final Four.
Ginebra San Miguel
When it was announced that Time Cone will be taking over the coaching chores of the underachieving Ginebra San Miguel, Tim said he did not know Mark Caguioa. He may not have known him personally but he should know him very well as a player because when he was coaching Alaska and later Purefoods, Tim must have designed defensive plays against the superstar. Yet Tim mentioned him when he doesn’t know personally most of the other Gin Kings, except for LA and Mac Barracael who had played for him in Alaska. That statement of Tim is ominous. Maybe he thinks Mark does not fit his system. Mark is a run-and-gun superstar. I wrote then that the legendary coach and the superstar and soul of the Ginebra team may not be compatible.
After Ginebra beat Global Port decisively Wednesday night, the Chanel 5 courtside reporter asked Mark if the Ginebra players are getting adjusted to Coach Tim Cone’s vaunted triangle offense. Mark said something like they won the game not because of the triangle offense but because of the brand of basketball the talented Gin Kings play, run-and-gun.
I have watched the body language of the two legends. Mark has displayed a grim if not sullen face during the games. In one time out, Tim looked like he had something to say to Mark. Mark just walked past Tim and went straight to the bench, several feet away from Tim.
If Ginebra does not improve its standing in the current conference, there will be drastic changes in the team. Since Tim’s transfer to Ginebra was a unilateral decision of the top management of San Miguel, parent company of Purefoods, which Tim led to a Grand Slam, and Ginebra, whose record in the past conferences has been getting worse, it won’t be Tim who would be nudged off his place.
Note also that the playing time of Sol Mercado, another run-and-gun player, is getting less and less. Rookie point guard Earle Scottie Thompson seems to fit snugly Tim’s triangle offense. His feeds to center Greg Slaughter are perfect executions of Tim Cone’s favorite attack strategy.