This appears in the Monday August 29, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.
Questions at 4-7
by rick olivares
What questions must be swirling inside the minds of the National University Bulldogs and Ray Parks?
In Year Three of the proclamation of team patriarch Hans Sy (where he said that the Bulldogs would win a title in five years), the team is 4-7 and is pretty much out of the Final Four picture.
The 84-82 double overtime loss to Far Eastern University saw to that.
Was it the expectations of a University Games and Fr. Martin title? Was it the acquisition of blue chip rookie Parks?
Obviously, the answer is youth. There are eight newcomers to the team. But that isn’t the only thing.
Parks missed two free throws against UE in crunch time during their first round loss. This time, he was pretty much clutch. He did nail four crucial free throws that sent the game into overtime and into the second extension. But with the game on the line and FEU up by two he made only one. That necessitated fouling in the next possession.
Granted that the confidence-challenged and one-time starting point guard Joseph Terso could have won it all with his last second triple attempt. But the moment he released it, everyone inside the Big Dome knew it wasn’t going in. It was off by a few inches and it was lucky to graze iron.
If Parks is the Kobe Bryant of this team, he should have taken that shot no matter who was hanging on to his jersey. Ray says he’s also a fan of Michael Jordan. If he knows MJ’s history, then there was that storied Game 5 against Utah in 1997 when he was sick and his shot was short. What MJ did was drive repeatedly. He may have missed his shots but he did get to the line where he did some serious damage.
During one occasion, point guard Gelo Alolino was looking to pass to him but Parks stayed so far away that it was dangerous to throw a crosscourt pass. He would do that in the second overtime and he got picked off by Terrence Romeo would a fastbreak deuce. But in the previous instance, with a look of annoyance, Alolino passed off instead to Joeffrey Javillionar who missed from the right corner pocket.
With the game on the line once more, Parks instead deferred to Javillionar who nailed a triple with 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter to make it 70-68 for NU. In fact, he deferred twice to Javillionar. The other was with 1:33 left in the firs overtime and Javillionar botched a lay up. And you have to give it to Joeffrey because he was willing to take those big shots.
Parks scored 32 points 7-18 field goals and 15-18 free throws and is the league’s leading scorer. But didn’t Tracy McGrady lead the NBA in scoring too? Does anyone remember that? He is more remembered for not getting out of the first round of the NBA playoffs despite being the man on his team. The one time his team did get out (the Houston Rockets), he was no longer The Man. That was Yao Ming.
The son of PBA great Bobby Parks did play the last 20 minutes of the match and maybe there was some fatigue. And he did have that twisting 180° layup from the left baseline that should be one of the shots of the year. But this was their only game of the week. And not with the season on the line. Last year, Kokoy Hermosisima wanted that ball.
Where is the ferocious dunker who during the Fr. Martin Cup semis attempted to tomahawk Greg Slaughter into the following week?
But as much as Parks did not want to be the man in the end, NU has to take a look at itself collectively to search for answers.
The Tamaraws didn’t have it any easy as RR Garcia was playing with a strained ligament in his non-shooting hand. They had to rally as NU crumbled from a token press. I say token because they didn’t really press that hard to begin with. The Bulldogs just did not execute.
Time and again, Gelo Alolino would pick up his dribble on the wrong side of the court and look to pass off. How many times did they lose the ball with poor passing? The Tams were playing Emmanuel Mbe straight up and making sure that none of NU’s plethora of three-point snipers didn’t get too much daylight.
Mbe. In NU’s four wins, the Cameroonian center averaged 16 points and 11 boards. In six losses, the numbers were down to 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. After the second round loss to FEU he had 11 and 10 to his name.
Turnovers. In their first 10 games, NU forced the fewest turnovers in the league with only 14.9 per match. Against FEU, they forced the Tams to cough up the ball 15 times (pretty much the same) but they committed 21 turnovers that the Tams translated into 23 points. The most costly was the Alolino pass that Romeo intercepted.
When FEU pressed why didn’t NU counter with two point guards? They have Terso although he is a shade of his former self, and Cedric Labing-isa who hasn’t been playing.
You have to give FEU head coach Bert Flores props for a masterful game plan. They answered some questions too. Such as winning in a double overtime game (they lost to Ateneo several games ago) and executing down the stretch. Although Terrence Romeo once more had an endgame boo boo. When he fouled Parks and sent him to the line (the one where Parks split his free throws).
But Flores… in the crunch, he inserted Al Ramos and Carl Cruz with the three guards up front in Mike Tolomia, Romeo and Garcia. They would pass the ball around the arc and probe for an opening. If the ball was dumped low, both Ramos and Cruz had decent outside shots. If a Bulldog double-teamed on either the ball was immediately swung back out to the open man for a trey attempt. NU’s 2-3 zone did not work. Maybe they should have run a triangle and two. The one time they did change it – they went to a 1-2-2 zone – they stole the lob pass by Garcia to Ramos.
The Bulldogs had plenty of opportunities to close it out but nerves and turnovers killed them. And so, they are 0-2 in overtime games (the other being a 72-73 loss to UST).
As the Bulldogs dejectedly trooped to the dugout, the coaching staff and some team officials huddled outside to assess what happened. There were a few awkward moments of silence before there were answers. Unfortunately, they only begat more questions.