The time to hesitate is through - An Eagles Nest special by A.R.Samson
There are at least two recurring themes in the Blue Eagles’ games so far this season.
One is the growing confidence in breaking the press like a hot knife cutting through unrefrigerated butter, crossing the half-court line in less than eight seconds as well as throwing the inbound ball to a catcher in less than five are becoming more routine and less holding-of-the- breath time.
The other consistently recurring and oft-mentioned pattern is a rotating scoring leadership position which is so antithetical to the idea of a “go to” player so characteristic of the other teams. Where does the ball go for the clutch shot? Does that approach sound even vaguely familiar to the Blues for this very same team in seasons past? I see nodding of heads out there.
So, in the second-round game against the Bulldogs, the Man of the Hour (MOTH) is… Raffy Verano with 20 points, more than half of that (11 points) in the second quarter. His shooting clip in only 19 minutes of play is an efficient 8 out of 13 (61.5%) conversion rate. For his three triples, the field goal percentage is even higher at 3 out of 4 (75%). Just to put this feat of Verano in its proper context, the previous output of this newly discovered scoring threat has been 27 points in the previous 9 games—or an average of 3 points per outing. Is this season-high output of Number 22 a portent of things to come?
Unlike the previous wins of the Blue Eagles, though, the highest pointer this time was the only one in double digits. Isaac Go had 9 points, including what’s becoming his signature three point shot to end the first half. Give it to the guy three seconds before the buzzer. He knows what to do with that ball.
What does this unusual statistic for one team having nine different highest-pointers in ten games mean? Does it show a deep bench? Whose turn is coming up next? Does it demonstrate the wonders of ball movement and looking for the open man? (It’s your turn, Buddy. Don’t hesitate.)
The option of having different go-to players/highest pointers for each game allows a wider spreading of space on the floor, since there are no double-teams on a designated shooter—it’s always a different guy. This too helps in finally figuring out the press and having a shorter time to get to a shooter—whoever it will be this time.
With four games left in the elimination round and the momentum of strong double-digit-lead, back-to-back wins, the Blues are doing the math on how many more wins are needed to secure the F4 position. I am predicting a Blue Eagle sweep of the final four (small letters). Sure, I’ve been wrong before—so sue me.
The pessimists, who sometimes call themselves realists and consider optimists merely demented, are already counting certain defeat in the hands of the team that must not be named. I for one am not willing to concede what looks as inevitable as destroyed crops and livestock in the wake of a super typhoon. The team that must not be named even fielded late in the fourth quarter of their last game against the hosts of Season 79 an all-non-Filipino team (clue: they all look shadowy) just to flex their muscles, and show how many of them they have—enough to leave all the others on the bench.
Is it possible to think in terms of four wins in the next four games? “The time to hesitate is through.”
Think about it. The Bulldogs that beat the Blue Eagles by 10 points in the first round lost this time by 15 points. What’s that got to do with the price of beans, you say? Nothing, I say. Only this—the realm of possibility has expanded for the Blue Eagles. They’re gaining in confidence. Misplaced, you say? Placed, I say in return—whatever that means.
The 1966 song (age alert) “Light my fire” by “The Doors” (also with a memorable version by the soulful Jose Feliciano) is our featured song that again (how many times will we do this?) has little to do with basketball. The song is about the ratcheting up of emotion and passion, starting forest fires of desire, hearing the whoosh of incendiary momentum going to the final, okay I can’t think of a more appropriate word—climax. This is a generic word to designate the peak, the goal, the high point. Yes, this is still about basketball, folks. Hold it with the pentel pen.
“The time to hesitate is through/ No time to wallow in the mire/ Try now we can only lose/ And our love becomes a funeral pyre…come on baby, light my fire…” Aren’t these lyrics a fitting companion to “swoop down on the foe and sweep up the fields away”?
Well, if that’s not vaguely about basketball and passion, inflaming of support, and igniting the school spirit, then I don’t know the difference between a metaphor and a simile, as well as between synecdoche and metonymy.
While the prospect of getting to the F4 seems to be making it to the immigration control of the realm of possibility, there are still doubters. Who are they giving their season tickets to?
Here are five things to remember for the last four games in the elimination round.
1) It’s still one game at a time. This mantra, usually repeated by those at the very top and those on the brink of elimination, is helpful in managing expectations. It’s very much like Sartre’s “Being and nothingness”. In basketball terms (very seldom viewed in existentialist terms)—you either win or lose a game. According to the calculations of some calculating personalities, two more wins will seal the deal with no need for playoffs for the fourth place.
2) It’s time for the Blues to come out of their shells. Where have they been hiding? Has the “sixth man” been benched? Is it the pressure of work? The stock market has been drab and getting drabber, so where’s all that energy going? What can be more important than “the game”? It’s so sad to see a paltry crowd, maybe the thinnest I’ve seen in ten years. Have these Blues given up? Are these picky ones “just watching replays on TV” (only if we won)? We need to support the men and ladies lined up at the boxes coaxing the crowd to cheer. We can’t all have sore throats.
3) The basics are done. The rotation of minutes, balance of offense and defense, gang rebounding, breaking the press, making points from forced turnovers with a stingier defense, these have all been working. The coaching staff must be commended. The last two games are miles ahead in terms of the previous eight, including the wins in that group. The ball movement and internal passing has raised the level of open shots.
4) The final four opponents include three other strong contenders for the semi-final round. While maybe the top two are assured of their slots, maybe even the twice-to-beat first and second positions, the remaining elimination round is a good way to test the strength of the Blue Eagles, without conceding any game even to the team that must not be named. They are peaking at the right time.
5) Let’s not think of tee shirt designs yet. We can still wear the old ones proudly. It’s time to wear blue, show up, and shake the rafters again.
On to the fray! OBF.
Photos courtesy of Arvin Lim, Fabilioh.com