The third game is knocking on the door, Ateneo stroke first by snatching game 1 away from the Red Warriors, but the Warriors fought back and took game 2 by a twenty point difference to force a rubber match with the defending champions to be held at the Big Dome this coming Thursday, October 8, 2009.

The defending champions didn’t look like champions anymore in the second game, as they’ve tasted the first beating at the hands of the Red Warriors since 6 prior appearances, including the spectacular close fight in the second round of UAAP 71 last year when Buenafe and Tiu stepped up big time from beyond the arc in the final minutes. Ateneo has clutch players, they have the shooters, they’ve got the skills and the potential, but none of the triples went into the hoop for the Blue Eagles, from Monfort, to Austria, Buenafe to Reyes, not even a single one stepped up in crunch time. It’s a vital arsenal to Ateneo, especially at times like these where they face a UE quintet that solemnly depends on their zone defense.

Let’s say, it was just not Ateneo’s day, but the shooting was so terrible that I find it hard to believe, that Monfort and co kept shooting from rainbow distance and hitting everything, but not the hole of the ring. UE played spectacular as well, but there was indeed a bit luck involved in this one, who would’ve thought that Reyes’ and Monfort’s shots just won’t fall that day, they’ve been wide open several times, but still no good.

Ateneo’s bread and butter in this UAAP 72 finals is truly the shooting from their guards from beyond the arc, look back at the 5/6 performance of Jai Reyes in Game 1! They can’t afford to continue miss in the upcoming sudden death match, and the defending champs need to find a solution out of this if they still want to dream about a back to back championship since the implementation of the final four format in 1988.

You can name them all, all the big time shooters for Ateneo, especially Reyes, but that’s just not enough, they have a bench full of potential scores who may break out just anytime from anywhere on the court. Remember the breakout game of Monfort and Long who spelled the difference with their accuracy both against the Growling Tigers in Eliminations? Can you still recall the smooth release of the High School Hot Shot Juami Tiongson at garbage time when he gets into the game?

Well, he’s the player I’m looking forward to. I can’t deny the fact that the player I like most on the court for the Ateneans is Ryan Buenafe, but it’s clear to see that this is just not his year. It would be great to have a Rookie step up big time in situations like this, and I think that just like Chris Tiu’s lethal range, Tiongson may be just of equal lethality and spell the difference between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the University of the East Red Warriors.

They can’t just rely on Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and they just can’t rely on the players they usually get on the court. Look at UE, they’ve dived deep into their bench and found players with great potential that stepped up as well in the second match, and Ateneo might just want to take a deeper look at their bench as well. Let’s see what Juami Tiongson can do for the Eagles and if Coach Norman Black makes use of his awesome potential.

What do you think about the idea of having this Ateneo Blue Eaglet hotshot take the spotlight for a couple of moments in game 3? Well, we’ll find out more about it this coming Thursday when Ateneo faces all odds and goes all out against the University of the East in Game 3 – Sudden Death – Finals for the UAAP 72 Men’s Basketball Championship.

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