Yesterday's game is a testament to why I prefer boring blowouts over heart-stopping, gut-wrenching ordeals. They make for enjoying, relaxing afternoons with your friends. No suspense. No surprises. The better team should win, and win easy. After watching two hard-fought games against UE during the elimination rounds, with the second going into overtime, and only after Chris Tiu and Ryan Buenafe made four consecutive triples, we were expecting another close game. Afterwards, nobody was complaining that we were all wrong.
The game started shortly after DLRT won by five points against FEU. Their crowd was understandably, well, happy. They were, in fact, so happy that they started chanting "Go UE!" even before the red-clad people in the audience could find seats. Some of them, probably hoping for, if not expecting, an upset, stayed to enjoy the second game. I am not so sure if they enjoyed what they saw as much as we did.
How bad was the game for UE? At one point early in the fourth quarter, Ateneo has already scored twice as many points as UE did. They were able to whittle it down to a more "respectable" 20-point margin after the final buzzer by scoring 22 points in the garbage time that is the fourth quarter. UE team captain Marcy Arellano, playing what turned out to be his last game in the UAAP, scored a grand total of 0 points, going 0-6 from the field (including one horrible airball) and 0-2 from the line. The Ateneo crowd started celebrating as early as the third quarter, when chants of "We want La Salle!" wafted through the coliseum. After the Eagles came back from an early 11-5 hole to erect what turned out to be an insurmountable 17-11 lead at the end of the first, little did we know that the Warriors have already given us their best shot. While UE couldn't buy an easy basket from anywhere, Jai Rayes was making jumper after jumper, and Eric Salamat was making ridiculously difficult shots off the break. In the end, only a handful of UE supporters remained to sing their Alma Mater hymn with their players. One would be hard-pressed not to feel bad for the UE players, after seeing their crowd disappear long before the final buzzer, who look so alone after yet another playoff disaster.
The Eagles are in the finals for the 7th time since joining the UAAP in 1978. They have won the title three times, twice against its old, hated foe. Everything thus far has been to true to form. The two best teams during the season will face-off for the basketball title, and an entire year's worth of bragging rights. Two more games. One big fight.
Photo courtesy of PizzaGuy.