|CEU head coach Edgar Macaraya remind the Scorpions about their defensive schemes during the half time break.|
A good day on an off day: the CEU Scorpions win their Filoil debut
by rick olivares
The Centro Escolar University Scorpions sat quietly facing their head coach Edgar Macaraya. They dropped 26 points on the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals in the second period overhauling a five-point deficit after the first 10 minutes of play. Now they had a 38-29 lead.
Macaraya sat on a monoblock chair whiteboard in hand and addressed his players.
“Guys, our offense is not working but we are up by nine. Why?”
“Our defense,” offered Rodrigue Ebondo.
“Our defense!” affirmed Macaraya. “As bad as the offense is we do not run away from playing defense.”
The former San Sebastian Stags star pointed to one of his keywords written on the larger whiteboard behind him. The word “rebound” was written in big bold letters. His Scorpions have followed that to the letter outrebounding the Generals 26-19 in the first half. They had grabbed an amazing 14 offensive rebounds with seven coming from Ebondo.
When Macaraya starred in the NCAA with the Stags, they won a couple of championships with him playing the shooting guard position. While he is known for his amateur record for the most triples made in one game with 14, a little known facet of his game was his defense. He took pride in shutting opposing two-guards down. And that has formed the core of his coaching philosophy – that playing defense is key and wins championships.
The CEU coach then drew some diagrams on the whiteboard outlining how EAC has been finding Cedric Noube Happi on the blocks even as their long-range snipers Jan Jamon and John Tayongtong were misfiring.
“We have to communicate at all times,” Macaraya further intoned. “Rod? Mon? You have to communicate.”
Ebondo nodded towards point guard Mon Abundo who was seated a few away from his left.
Abundo is one of those type of point guards who despite his small size is built like a brick house. Strong, quick, blessed with good court vision, and a willingness to take the big shot. He and Ebondo have formed a good partnership.
The Congolese center, spry on his feet and adept with the outside shot or the drive, pointed out that they have to take advantage of EAC’s poor defense on the pick and roll. Abundo agreed.
“Let’s all continue to play defense,” reminded Macaraya before the team exited the locker room for the third period.
Unfortunately, stopping Happi was easier said than done. The lone bright spot on an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the Generals, the 6’7” Cameroonian split his free throws, hit a difficult turn around jumper on CEU’s Alfred Batiño, and threw up a running hook over Ebondo.
The problem was – the Scorpions stayed in step with forward Joseph Sedurifa putting back a missed layup by a teammate and Ebondo stroking a trey; 52-43 for CEU.
After another bucket by Happi, CEU’s second foreign player, Aristote Mutombo, raw and gangly unlike Ebondo, found an open Carlo Casiño who had drifted to the elbow. EAC’s Sidney Onwubere ran out to cover but it was too late. Casiño drained it.
The two squads answered each other’s bucket as both squads scored 38 points in a 76-67 win for CEU in their Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup debut.
The match got a little heated when EAC head coach Gerry Esplana vociferously complained about a pair of non-calls on CEU guard Aaron Jeruta for hooking his way around Tayongtong. It got so heated that Esplana was slapped a technical foul for resentment to a call. By game’s end, Esplana chased the referee but was stopped in his tracks when accosted by event security.
The game was a showcase between teams that is currently up there while the other is trying to reclaim lost glory.
College basketball is not only growing by leaps and bounds in popularity but in other aspects such as recruiting.
NAASCU champions CEU are one of these new wave teams that recruit players from other colleges (even if they only have a year or two left in their eligibility) while also lining up African student-athletes. Then they are exposed to higher competition such as the D-League.
Case in point: Carlo Casiño and Alfred Batiño came from Arellano University and the University of Cebu respectively. They have Rodrigue Ebondo who has a good basketball head on him.
EAC has been stuck in neutral (or reverse) in the last few years. However in NCAA Season 89, they finished fifth in the league with a 10-8 record; they were on the outside looking in on a Final Four berth. Esplana hopes to bring the Generals back to the glory days of the UCAA and NCRAA when Ronjay Buenafe used to rain baskets with impunity or when Argel Mendoza and the Yaya brothers led this team.
Jan Jamon is one of those deadly shooters. John Tayongtong is one of those stocky guards like FEU great Denok Miranda or Arellano Chief Nard Pinto. They’ve also got some good players in Igee King and Jack Arquero. Happi provides a lot of help but if EAC is to go further, he will need his teammates to carry their share of the load. If the dream of making a beachhead into Final Four land that has been the territory of San Beda and Letran in recent years they’ll need to play with a lot more consistency.
Inside the CEU locker room, there was elation among the Scorpions. They not only shot better but they also attacked EAC’s weak interior. That netted them 17 free throw attempts and they made good on 14 of them. Their defense was tighter -- 5-1 in steals; 5-1 in blocks, while EAC had 10 more turnovers at 25-15.
“Coach always tell us, ‘may off-day tayo sa offense pero walang off-day sa defense,” noted Batiño of CEU’s win. “And nagawa namin yung trabaho namin.”