by rick olivares with photos by brosi gonzales
One is the numerical term to describe the point guard position.
One foul is all this point guard committed in 26 minutes of masterful play.
And when the 40 minutes of basketball was done, this point guard’s team was still undefeated and number one.
Emman Monfort is in his final year and he is enjoying his finest season for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
In Season 73 where he came off the bench 13 times, Monfort averaged 7.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.7 steals, and 2.5 turnovers per game while playing an average of 16.9 minutes.
This Season 74, the point guard from Ateneo de Iloilo has posted 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.6 steals 1.3 turnovers. All that in 26.1 minutes per game.
The player who was once dropped to Team B after his sophomore year has become not only an invaluable player for the Ateneo Blue Eagles but also one whose impact on the game does not reflect in the stat sheet.
Against La Salle, fighting for survival in the race for the last Final Four slot, Monfort went up against two more heralded point guards in LA Revilla, who starred with the San Beda Red Cubs, and Almond Vosotros, who won a few titles with the San Sebastian Staglets.
Revilla’s easiest bucket was his strip of Kirk Long for a breakaway layup.
Vosotros piled on his points in a late surge against Raymond Austria.
Against Monfort, Revilla, who has had an incredible comeback season for the green and white, could empathize with FEU’s RR Garcia.
For years underrated and overlooked with stellar defenders like Nonoy Baclao, Zion Laterre, Eric Salamat, and Long, Monfort has turned in some remarkable defensive stops on celebrated scoring guards like Lester Alvarez, Jeric Fortuna, and Garcia.
Against La Salle, he played superb D and was a conductor to masterfully orchestrated symphony of team basketball. Even as there was cause for concern when center Greg Slaughter picked up his second foul with barely four minutes played, Monfort cooly picked up the reins for Ateneo and literally stood tall. He co-led the team in rebounds with Slaughter with seven boards (with two coming from the offensive glass).
And there was his playmaking.
After a defensive stop, the Blue Eagles quickly shifted to a fastbreak where Monfort found Kiefer Ravena a few strides ahead to the left with a bounce pass. With a couple of Green Archers furiously galloping down to prevent the bucket, Ravena fed it back out to Long on the right side who then zipped it to Nico Salva who was playing trailer. Three passes. Hook shot in the lane. 40-29 lead and the rout was on.
After La Salle strung up six consecutive points to make it 44-34, Monfort found a wide open Tonino Gonzaga from the right side of the three-point arc.
Cries of anticipation on one side and “oh, shit” on the other side.
Tonino Gonzaga, sparkplug for the second unit, had hit some huge shots earlier including a pair of high-arcing layups over Philip Paredes that sent the shot blocking center to the bench.
Bang. The Greenies’ momentum killed. 47-34 Blues’ lead.
La Salle would make one more serious run at Ateneo in an eight-point splurge that spanned the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth to make it 53-46 but Gonzaga began a retaliatory strike of seven straight points with another trey that snuffed the fight out of La Salle for good.
For fourth year forward Nico Salva, the game began with a pair of traveling calls and missed shots here and there. Frank Golla soon replaced him at the four-spot.
The feed in the lane from Long had gotten him going. In Ateneo’s next offensive, he scored on a putback off a botched layup by Ravena. He would score 13 points in the second half and perhaps none more emphatic when Monfort dropped a pass to him inside the lane that drew a foul from Revilla who tried to slap the ball away.
Salva pumped his fist. Free throw made. One cut. One pass. Nineteen points. 78-57 lead.
With the game minutes from its now obvious end – an Ateneo victory – the Blue Eagle coaching staff pulled out Monfort and the other starters from the game.
The Ateneo crowd, who filled about 65% of the Araneta Coliseum, applauded in appreciation. Hard to believe that even as far back as a year ago, some quarters were questioning his presence on the team after a few poor matches early in the season. He was extremely composed against La Salle. He never forced anything. In one instance, there was an opportunity to go all the way for a layup even as Revilla and a few others gave chase. But instead, Monfort pulled back, and waited for his teammates.
There were no boisterous yelps of joy inside the dugout. No posturings or trash talking of any sort. The team was in good spirits of course after being on the side of a 79-62 win. Celebrations are best saved for October when the team is playing for keeps.
Monfort sat by his cubicle and smiled then gave the thumbs up then raised his index finger.
I asked, “We’re number one?”
“No, sir. One game at a time.”
Loved the halftime cheering! Good job!