The wild and windy night - an Eagle's Nest special by A.R.Samson
Alright, let’s get used to this new set of rising expectations. No longer are the Blue Eagles just a team capable of upsets. Some others carry that brand of surprising wins and improbable big leads against the top teams that evaporate like hopes for getting in the F4. Before Season 79 (Dare to Dream), the Blues didn’t even know the names of their players (those two are twins?) and their only hope, ambitious and demented it even seemed at that time, was to make it to the Final Four. Sure, you remember that time. It was only eight weeks ago.
There were even some Blues, after the “unleash hell” weekend game just a few days ago (yes, that one), who were so euphoric about the unexpected upset that they vowed, after only one glass of orange juice with champagne, that they couldn’t care less about the rest of the season and even hoped that the Blue Eagles would just drop off after the obligatory game in the playoffs and not give the team that must not be…a chance to “cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war”. Why give them a chance to get back at us? Yes, last Saturday’s game was so deliciously delirious (note the alliteration) that it seemed to be an end in itself. Why tempt fate?
Not so fast, Partner.
From a Beatles hit, ‘The long and winding road”, we draw inspiration on the road ahead:
“The wild and windy night/that the rain washed away/ has left a pool of tears/ crying for the day/why leave me standing here/ let me show the way.” We need to take the trek even at the risk of falling off. Okay, I just needed a song. It’s in the template.
There are two games left. The second round now stands at 4-1, or four straight wins with double-digit margins and dominance in all quarters. As in the Saturday game, the one against the Tamaraws (named after an endangered species and no modifier or color) had also only one lead change in the first quarter and no see-saw scoring afterwards. True, towards the end of the third and the start of the fourth the biggest lead of 23 points was chipped down to 12 (that’s more than half) at the end of the third (58-46) and then down to 7 and even 6 before a burst of points to restore order in the universe and an ending score of 74-59. There was a triple there by Adrian (part of his 12 points), and then two drive-ins by Ravena as well as a layup by Isaac (two of his 14 points).
The pattern of a rotating scoring leader may be getting tiresome to many. But it seems to be the new definition of team work and how the Blue Eagles now play. The different player of the game for each match is probably irritating too for the scouts of the other teams. Hey, if even the palyers don’t know who it will be next time, nobody does.
Thirdy Ravena with 15 points has other contributions to the team’s success that are not caught by the statistics. He seems to settle down the team when the other side goes on a run to close the gap. His demeanor as he brings down the ball from the backcourt seems to be on another part of his brain—hey, have you seen that new hoodie at the Ateneo bookstore? It’s not quite nonchalance nor indifference nor arrogance but a way of assuring the rest of the team that may be on the verge of a panic attack with a look that says: do I look like worried? Chill.
Heading for the, dare we say it—yes, the finals, here are three things to remember. I can’t think of five, sorry.
1) The team work is clicking; and it’s consistent with assist passes averaging 15 (please don’t check that for accuracy). The passes now are no longer predictable and intercepted. Remember assist statistics are only counted when the pass results in a score. The ball movement, especially with long passes to quicken the pace of the game and catch the other team off guard should be set to music—maybe, Swan Lake? Or “Hold on, I’m coming”?
2) The demand for tickets is rising. It’s okay, my brothers and sisters, there are to be no rants against the previous apathy symbolized by so many empty seats. This one against the Tamaraws after all was a working day and the venue is a bit off the beaten track. Some people who came had meetings and needed to rush off before the end of the third quarter. (Guilty!) Also, every game is important even against one tail-ender. There is a need to secure the twice-to-beat position without needing to break ties by winning the last two games. Of course, screaming and rhythmic chants are not found in statistics either—but they help. Yes, they do.
3) The roles of the players have been defined by now especially when as they inch towards the playoff rounds. We have the rainbow shooters, body bangers, defensive stoppers, rebounders, box-outers, drive-inners, ball stealers, crossers of half court, blind passers, and long baseball handoverers. Okay, we don’t have alley-oopers and rim hangers and chest thumpers, and finger inviters for drives, and least of all taunters with choke motions after making a triple that didn’t help their games.
I know this reads like an anti-climax from the running-train narrative on the last game. But life has its humdrum moments, even for a team with four spectacular wins in a row. And the Blue Eagles are still peaking. And they look like they’re having fun too. Tthat’s nice
Go Ateneo. OBF!
Photos courtesy of JCLapuz, Fabilioh.com