UAAP 77 Jrs. Basketball: Eaglets Undefeated But Not Flawless after Nine Games

January 13, 2015
Enzo Flojo; Photos by Gil V. Salandanan and Jonas Salandanan
The Ateneo High School Blue Eaglets, bannered by a victory over NU to end the first round and twin wins against Zobel and Adamson to open round two, have zoomed to the top of the league table, remaining undefeated, if a tad unimpressive, after their first nine games.
Leading MVP candidate Mike Nieto's winning lay up in the game against DLSZ. Photo by Gil Salandanan.
Sure, these Eaglets, bridesmaids last season to the Hubert Cani-led Bullpups, rank high on most statistical categories and boast of the league’s leading MVP candidate (Mike Nieto), but, based solely on their last two outings, it seems there is still much work to do before they can carry the title favorite label their unblemished record suggests.
Against a motivated De La Salle-Zobel squad, Ateneo couldn’t find its rhythm. The Loyola quintet was outworked on the boards, 44-50, and coughed up 20 turnovers. Big Mike could hardly find the bottom of the net in that one, shooting 2/14 from the field. The Junior Archers actually had a golden chance to pull the rug from under the Eaglets, but a late game miscue led to a turnover that enabled Mike to make the marginal basket. Jolo Mendoza top-scored for Ateneo in the round two game against Adamson. Photo by Jonas Salandanan.
In their second game of round two, the Eaglets didn’t necessarily fare much better, too. This despite the fact they were pitting claws with the Adamson Baby Falcons, who were mired at 4-4 in the standings. Oh but the San Marcelino-based five did put up quite a fight, sticking close to Ateneo and even leading by as many as 7 points. The Eaglets would regain the lead, but they would never be able to really pull away. Once again, they had to lean on some endgame escape artistry to outslug Adamson, 66-61. Jolo Mendoza top-scored here with 15 markers, but he made just 2 field goals. The Nieto twins didn’t exactly hit bullseyes left and right as well, pairing up for just 11/34 FG shooting.
Ugly, yes, but a win is a win after all, so Ateneo will take its 9-0 record and stake it against the dangerous FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws, who are 6-3, on Wednesday. If the Eaglets want to really stamp their class and proceed with an aura of invincibility, though, then they will have to find a way to play much more efficiently. One must remember that skirting too close to the edge often leads to falling over it.
In other news, the NU Bullpups have been on a tailspin, losing three straight dating back to their defeat at the end of round one against Ateneo. The defending champions have looked quite vulnerable of late, losing in extra innings to the Baby Tamaraws a few days ago and then being on the wrong end of a gargantuan upset opposite the unheralded UST Tiger Cubs yesterday.
The culprits? The Bullpups have been shooting poorly, turning the ball too often, and Mark Dyke has had next to no support. I mean, look at the following numbers:
NU FG% first 7 games: 39.9%
NU FG% last 2 games: 29.6%
NU average turnovers first 7 games: 23.1
NU average turnovers last 2 games: 30.0
Mark Dyke averages last 2 games: 17.5ppg, 19.9rpg
# of other Bullpups who have scored 10 or more points in last 2 games: ZERO
Clearly, these Bulldogs seem to be all bark right now.
As for some of the other teams, it seems clear that FEU-FERN and Zobel are favorites to make the Final Four along with Ateneo and NU, but upset-conscious squads like Adamson and UST may still gatecrash into the top half of the league if they can spring some surprises.
Continue checking out the #UAAP77Jrs games at the Blue Eagle Gym. The next four games on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 are the following:
9am: UPIS vs UST
11am: Adamson vs UE
1pm: Ateneo vs FEU-FERN
3pm: NU vs DLSZ