Like breathing out and breathing in - AN EAGLE'S NEST SPECIAL by ARSamson
I know you were holding your breath after the recent Blue Eagles’ back-to-back losses, one at the end of the first round (a blowout against the still undefeated team that must not be named) and another at the start of the second round by an unlikely team sharing the same street with us that has been renamed Carlos P. Garcia and whose history of losses with that neighbor stretched back eight years. Who knew?
With the unexpected and more recent loss, there was talk of making travel plans for parts unknown before the end of Season 79. Because, what’s the use, right? The feeling is summed up by the words of my old teacher Fr. Gordon: Oh death. All those blue shirts with eagles and hoops and a list of five championship years may need to be mothballed for next year or used for sleepovers.
One could only lose so many games, preferably against the better teams, and still stay in contention for the F4. But with the similarly astonishing reversals of other contending teams in the top five upset by the bottom three, the travel plans of the Blues are being rescheduled closer to Christmas.
So, yes, you can exhale now.
The first quarter of the game against the upset-conscious Red Warriors, who were coming from their own confidence-building back-to-back wins, seemed have more mishaps (from a deep well of them) for the Blue Eagles. The defense was loose and the Warriors were just throwing up balls seemingly guided by wires to swoosh down the net after they left the red-shirted players’ hands, whether these were threes from the rainbow, or lay-ups that were too easy. The lead of the Reds ballooned to 14 and got whittled down to half only at the end of the quarter.
And then, the team clicked going into the second quarter.
As has been the pattern in all the Blue Eagle games, including the ones that were lost, there was yet another highest pointer, this time it was Jolo Mendoza with 15 points, including back-to-back threes in the 2nd quarter to start the rally. Again there were three other Blue Eagles with double-digit scores: Ravena (14); Wong (11); Mike Nieto (10)…and almost also there, Go with 8 points, including the buzzer beating three-point shot to end the half—no double team on him for that one. The stands were on their feet from the small backed little back rests of the Filoil Arena.
The nasty first quarter 16-23 (in favor of the Warriors) was followed by the scoring blitz in the second with the Blue Eagles’ output shy of doubling the Warriors at 26-14. The combination of a tighter zone, more efficient defensive rebounds allowing only one attempt, and less half-court passing around and quicker penetrations did the trick.
The game ended with a victory for the Blue Eagles over the Red Warriors, 75-61, and a stronger solo hold on third place at 5-4. There are five games left, including the typhoon-postponed one against the Falcons.
Sticking with one team increases the emotional investment of the fan. That’s the appeal of college sports since one’s alma mater doesn’t change. Like an existentialist mantra—it just is. So, if a fan loses interest, he doesn’t really switch teams, he just goes back to foot massages and theater. Or, he switches sports from basketball to chess.
The title of course has nothing to do with basketball. Why do I always do this? I’m running out of songs about ball movement, and once you pick titles from lyrics, it’s a bad habit that’s hard to break, like eating pig’s knuckles and crab fat when you know it’s bad for you, but who wants to take home a doggie bag?
“My Fair Lady” is a Broadway musical, also a movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. It’s about a speech therapist who makes a bet with a friend that he can turn a cockney flower seller plucked from the streets of London into someone who can pass for royalty just from the way she talks. The result of the tutorial is tested first at the Ascot races, then at a big fancy ball. The story is based on “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw, which in turn draws from a myth of a statue coming to life. (Hey, that’s a metaphor for the Blue Eagles.)
Did I tell you this has nothing to do with basketball?
The eponymous line comes from the number, “I’ve grown accustomed to her face”. Professor Henry Higgins laments in song and speech the exit of his student, Eliza Doolittle who leaves when she finds out about the bet: “her joys, her woes/ her highs, her lows/ are second nature to me now/ like breathing in and breathing out”.
Isn’t this bond of familiarity and inevitable connection what an alumnus/alumna/parent/fan feels going to these games? See, it’s not totally irrelevant…not totally.
Here are five things we now know going to the next five games of the second round, after the win over the Warriors:
1) Yes, the team has finally figured out the full-court press and how to break out of it in less than 8 seconds and cross before the back court guards of the other team get back in position. There is less dribbling into a trap, and more lateral passing before panic sets in. Sure, there was perhaps one inbound infraction. But the turnovers coming from the swarming, bumping, doubling defense of the other team are now manageable. Maybe the referees too are calling these contacts more strictly.
2) There is a new confidence in the team after the disastrous first quarter. The comeback was early this time and started with a tight defense and good rebounding on both sides of the court. In one play, Go rebounded his own miss to get the ball back emphatically into the hoop. Team rebounding and boxing out of the bigs of the other team are new tools in the blue arsenal.
3) Rotation of playing minutes and combinations, especially for the four and five positions no longer sacrifices offensive sock to improve rebounding. The second quarter’s 26-point output bodes well for the spreading of points as well the balanced attack with lay-up penetrations and perimeter shooting.
4) There is a sense of urgency as the number of games left in the elimination round are dwindling to just five and probably just available to accommodate the second to fourth places. The stronger contenders are yet to be met.
5) Still, with the seemingly planned rotation of the top scorers in the last nine games, probably having a common one in just two of those, the Blue Eagles offer a broader offensive menu. And the rainbow shot is no longer the first option. With a team known for its passing and assist plays, this advantage will hopefully be felt more in the next few games.
The swooping presence seems stronger. Or am I just suffering from what economists call an optimism bias? Some may even use a stronger word like “delusion”. But the celebration in some quarters that must not be named will have to wait for the season to end, as T.S. Eliot puts it…”not with a bang but with a whimper”.
All photos courtesy of Joji C. Lapuz, Fabilioh.com