Tag Archives: D2003

ABL 2013 Game 2: Outgunned

For the nth time, an undermanned AHS 4D 03  squad withered against top notch competition. From the tip-off, the opposing team came out with all guns blazing. The mainstays of AHS 4J 03 were taller, faster, and more athletic. Midway into the first quarter, the deficit ballooned to more than ten points. To make matters worse, the absence of Gino Magat left the already depleted frontline without another vital bruiser.

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Photo from Jeric Angeles

By second half, the lead mushroomed to 30 points as the J-boys found their mark from beyond the arc. In a good show of sportsmanship, our opponents pulled out their big guns as their runaway victory (and our demise) became more apparently certain. Nevertheless, the fresh legs of AHS 4J 03’s second stringers were too much to handle.

There was to be no miracle comeback, as the team missed a substantial number of free throw attempts (40%, 4/10). For the second straight game, our three-point shooting accuracy was horrendous (16.7%, 3/18). Our taller adversaries grabbed a massive 39 rebounds against our miniscule 12. We were bested in almost every statistical category except in blocked shots (4).

The final score: 43-61. AHS 4D 03, the Roberto Littaua champions of 2009, had just sustained its worst shellacking since the 50-point blowout in 2011.

Losing is never fun. But there’s only so much a depleted squad could do. The lone bright spot in this debacle of an ABL season is the fact that the losing experience is character-building.

Game Statistics (from ABL.ph)

AHS-2003-M-2

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Post-Workout Reflections

It’s a pity how some people my age complain of being “old.” Things could not be further away from the truth. Being in your mid-twenties is certainly much better than being in your teens. I can feel the difference in physique, to say the least. I am definitely not “old” for I am at the peak of physical fitness.

While having my customary post-workout meal this afternoon, I noticed a poster advertising a two-month TRX training program. The around 2 to 3 sessions per week, the prospective client must shell  Php 7,500 (approx.  USD 180). It’s a steep price to pay to get physically fit. True enough, gym memberships and decent coaching do not come cheap. Although one can opt to run outdoors or follow simple do-it-yourself workouts, there’s this fine line between being foolhardy and cost-effective.

Although I earn a decent enough salary with my finance industry day job, the thought of hiring a personal coach still seems a bit scary – and thankfully, unnecesary. This is where my athletics background come in handy.

Now that I’m retired from the sport, staying in tip-top physical shape has become imperative. In my past life I’ve taken being athletic as a pre-requisite to achieve my sporting goals. Nowadays, fitness has become an end in itself. Even if I’ve hung up my spikes, I have no intention of getting a beer belly!

I’ve been following a less stringent training regimen the past few months consisting of weight training, plyometrics, uphill sprints, and sprints. In essence, these workouts are modified track & field routines designed to mimic the physical requirements of a basketball game – my sport of choice outside athletics.

I invited a handful of my former track & field teammates to scrimmage with the D2003 ABL team yesterday afternoon. As expected, our younger and more athletic opponents ran circles around the older members of my high school class. It’s the first time in recent months that I’ve encountered such quality athleticism in opponents. Even if my basketball skill set is severely lacking, I’m proud to say that I can hold my own in terms of physical strength and fitness.

Like I always say, the end of my athletics days does not necessarily translate in being sedentary. Being an athlete is a way of life that transcends track & field and the hurdles. After all, one’s youth does not last forever.

ABL Games 7 and 8: The End of the Road

At the start of the season, we compared our team (in jest) to the resurgent Powerade Tigers. Ryan Agas, our main man, was Gary David. Former UAAP juniors star, Merrill Lazo, was Marcio Lassiter. The sweet-shooting Adi Dimaliwat was our JV Casio. Rounding up the supporting cast were Paolo Rosales (Rudy Lingganay), Yayo Puno (Sean Anthony) and yours truly (Doug Kramer/Josh Vanlandingham. A far-fetched comparison!).

We won our first game, despite an undermanned line-up. It was the last time Merrill and Agas played together in the 2012 season. Ryan had pressing academic commitments that saw him miss six out of our eight games. Merrill carried the cudgels until a recurring injury ruled him out of our last three games. We had several close shaves at grabbing the “W,” despite the absence of our stars, but then again, we could not seem to pull off a winning performance. Luck seemed to be on our side, as two of the opposing teams defaulted on its games.

The penultimate game of the regular season, against Team JR Sarmiento, was a lucky turn. Out of contention, the opposing team failed to assemble the minimum number of players; thus, losing the game by default. Barely 24 hours later, we went against AHS 4J 2003 – second in the overall rankings. Even if their main man RJ Jacinto did not play, we had a hard time playing against the taller and faster team. All game long, we kept the lead to a manageable single digit. We even went as close as two points in the third quarter, before a series of errant plays cut our momentum.

When the final buzzer sounded, we were down by nine points (51-60). At the end of the ABL season, we had a 3-5 card, second-to-the-last in our five-team division.

Nevertheless, there were some bright points. Playing without Merrill and Agas brought the rest of the team together. All of a sudden, slacking off was not an option. We could not rely on the talent of our Dynamic Duo any longer. We were left to fend for ourselves. The circumstances brought out the best in us, a valuable learning experience in the future ABL seasons.

AHS-2003-M-Semis-1

Illogical

It all started a few days before the ELSA Amazing Race. When I woke up one morning, my throat felt itchy. Perhaps it was due to the rainy weather, or the times I failed to quickly change into a dry shirt. I was also feeling somewhat stressed around that time, from my crazy schedule of sleep deprivation, full-time work and athletics training. The logical thing I should have done was to rest it out. But I did not follow the logical path.

Instead, I played a lengthy game of basketball that weekend. For four quarters, our undermanned ABL team held its own against better and taller opponents. We lost the game by a measly two points. At the end of the 45 minutes of play, I was breathing heavily. I started to cough as my nose became even more clogged. That night, I developed a mild fever. I wanted to pull out of the Amazing Race, but for some insane reason, I did not.

I sneaked in one oval session a few days later, thinking I’ve recovered from my illness. It turned out that I haven’t. The next weekend, I played in yet another ill-fated basketball match, exacerbating my poor condition.

Despite my poor basketball skills, I just had to do my part for our ABL team – especially with the absence of our star players. There were no fairy tale endings at the end of it. We lost two of our last three games; thus, effectively ending our 2012 ABL season.

Even if I lost quite a few training days, I was glad as hell I did not back down from the challenge of playing through an illness. The thought of missing out on a good fight would have been more hurtful than spending a few days more under the weather.

Sometimes, we throw logic off the window, as the mind takes a back seat to our passions.

ABL Game 6: Losing Streak

The team has adjusted relatively well to the absence of its former UAAP juniors stars.  Despite the missing Yayo Puno, our front line held through against the tall trees of Team Sabino. The entire game was a fierce battle of attrition. Team Sabino, who missed the services of its own former varsity players as well, held the upper hand throughout most of the game.

Even if we defended quite well, the team had problems with offense. Ryan Agas and Merrill Lazo are vital cogs to the offensive rotation. Those missing guys sapped a big chunk of our firepower. Nevertheless, Paolo Rosales had a monster scoring game, notching 20 points in 42.1% field goal shooting. The fast break plays, with Rosales as the pincer, kept our collective heads above water in the game’s most crucial phases. Ros’ partner in crime, the streak shooting Adi Dimaliwat added 12 points, all scored from the beyond the arc.

Although we led at some point in the third quarter, the “W” eluded our undermanned squad. When the final buzzer sounded, we were behind by a measly 2 points, 50-52.

With this loss, the team fell to 2-4 – the second worst record in the 5-team division. This weekend’s back-to-back games, missing players notwithstanding, are crucial in our bid to reach the semifinals.

Click here to view the game stats (from the ABL website)

ABL Game 5: Collapse

The absence of the team’s two UAAP veterans sapped our offensive and defensive potency. The resurgent Merrill Lazo opted to rest his bum knee, leaving a gaping a hole in the rotation. Ryan Agas’ taxing schedule as a medical student left him unavailable for last week’s game. If Merrill is the team’s heart, Ryan is its soul. We were left with a depleted lineup, with Choi Esguerra and Gino Magat unable to play.

Surprisingly, we were in contention for the better part of the game. Adi Dimaliwat stepped up massively, scoring 17 big points on 41.2% shooting. Paolo Rosales, chipped in 15 valuable points thanks to his daredevil fastbreak plays. Yayo Puno, the Defensive Player of the Year back in 2009, registered his first double-double in the season, had a herculean game. Puno grabbed a massive game-high 16 rebounds, on top of 12 points, 4 steals and 2 blocks.

Coming into the final quarter, AHS 4H 2003’s lead never went beyond 6 points. Midway into the fourth quarter, however, foul trouble left our frontline severely undermanned. From then on, the opposing team went on a scoring rampage.

When the final buzzer sounded, we were buried under a humiliating 18 point lead, thanks to our fourth quarter collapse.

AHS 2003 Week 6 Stats (From the ABL site)

ABL 2012 Game 3: Free Pass

The team came half an hour early, in anticipation of heavy traffic arising from the high school fair. With the game scheduled for 7PM, we assembled the core of the team a good 20 minutes before tip-off time. This was a far cry from the first game, when we ate up the 10 minute time-out allotment waiting to complete five players. Save for a couple of missing faces, most of the guys in the lineup were present. Even old reliable Choi Esguerra, who lost played for the class way back in high school, was there!

However, traffic woes saw the opposing team lose the game by default. No one wants to win (or lose) a game by default. But then again, rules are rules.  We were pitted against the joint league leaders, AHS 4J 2003, and were expecting a protracted battle with our athletic foes. Despite our willingness to wait it out, a strict schedule has to be followed. Nevertheless, a win is still a win, as the cliche goes.

When the grace period ran out, we decided to play a pick-up game instead to take advantage of the free hard court. Despite the informal setting, the players weren’t lacking in intensity. We were all frustrated at missing out on an ABL game; hence, we played hoops with [not-so-youthful] abandon. Despite the pressure-free environment, both squads came out with guns blazing.

We’ve always had trouble rotating the ball and running motion plays, relying on our streak shooting guards, lung-busting fast break plays and individual skill to score valuable points. The team had last many games with this type of play, falling pray to taller foes and more organized systems. As always, Merrill was a rock on both defense and offense. The return of Ryan from a one-game hiatus made for a more efficient play. Despite the presence of our two main men, the team lost to our undermanned opponents.

We were pummeled underneath by the magnificent post plays of RJ Jacinto, while the shifty MJ Torrado wreaked havoc on the open court. And yet, one can draw positives from the losing experience, wounded pride notwithstanding. At least it wasn’t an official ABL game. Moreover, it was a good opportunity to for the team to be more cohesive. It’s better to make mistakes on the practice court than in actual game! As the cliche goes, we learn more from losing than from winning.

The team might have gotten a free pass, but the road ahead is going to get a lot tougher.

ABL 2012 Game 2: Falling Short

It was good to be back at the Blue Eagle Gym again. This was AHS 4D 2003’s first game at the decades old stadium since the last match of the ill-fated Season 2010. Since it was a Sunday night, the gym was almost deserted, save for a few basketball diehards and some early birds. It was an ominous return to such a storied venue.

For the first two quarters, the team seemed to match up with the bigger lineup of Team Sabino quite well. The daredevil drives of Paolo Rosales (5 points, 6 rebounds) and Merrill Lazo’s (20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) dagger treys kept the opposing team’s lead to a manageable five points in some stretches. Adi Dimaliwat (made a couple of three-point baskets in the most opportune of times. Yayo Puno and Velden Lim returned from a one-game absence to man the front-line with their athleticism, hustle and game smarts.

The team, despite the absence of main man Ryan Agas, even grabbed the lead in the first half.

Things started to crumble in the third quarter, as a foul-troubled Merrill was forced to ride the bench for a few minutes. All of a sudden, there was a gaping hole in the middle. The fired-up 6’4 behemoth Johann Uichico took advantage of Merrill’s temporary absence, wreaking havoc with his accurate short stabs and numerous drives. At the start of the fourth quarter, the opposing team’s lead had ballooned to as large as eight points.

Midway into the last period, our error prone team squandered golden chances to narrow the deficit. We were unable to run consistent plays and missed supposedly easy point blank shots. The imposing front line of Team Sabino exacerbated our offensive woes, as the opposing team grabbed a massive 54 rebounds against AHS 4D 2003’s measly 42. Despite making more three-pointers and notching a 78.4% field goal percentage, the team faltered in the end game.

There was one seemingly infinite stretch when we couldn’t seem to force the ball out of Team Sabino’s possession. For two long minutes, the ball stayed at the wrong side of the court, as our opponents grabbed offensive rebounds at will.

Despite a last ditch gasp to trim the deficit, the final buzzer sounded with the team behind by a heartbreaking five points, 48-53.

AHS 2003 Week 3 Stats (from the ABL site)

ABL 2012 Game 1: Come From Behind

Five minutes before tip-off time, our side of the basketball court was devoid of the usual faces. Only JR Calimbas, Ryan Agas, Merrill Lazo and I were there. As the clock ticked, the prospect of defaulting on our season opener slowly became reality. Paolo Rosales’ last minute arrival finally completed the starting five.

All throughout the precocious pre-game impasse, I was admittedly irked by the absence of the other players. We pride ourselves in winning an ABL championship without non-D2003 reinforcements and yet, there we were struggling to complete a five-man squad. It seemed as if everything went downhill after the magical 2009 season.

We were bombarded by accurate outside snipes from 4H 2003’s Earl Bello. Inside the paint, our heftier opponents controlled the boards and made crucial point-blank conversions. In the first two quarters, the opposing team led by as much as eight points as we struggled to keep pace with a depleted line-up. The daredevil fast breaks of Ryan and Ros kept the team within striking distance. But we couldn’t seem to pare the lead.

With lactic acid dangerously reaching the thresholds of pain, our much awaited reinforcements finally arrived. The sweet-shooting Adi Dimaliwat was the spark plug. Adi’s accurate shots from three-point country enabled the squad wrest the lead for the first time in the game. Dimaliwat was unstoppable, as he unleashed an electric display of shooting prowess, nailing three out of his eight attempted three-pointers. Adi’s field goal percentage was an immaculate 50%.

As the latter quarters unraveled, the fab four of Ryan, Merrill, Adi and Ros wreaked havoc on the open court. The defense held the repeated forays of the opposing team. Gang rebounding proved pivotal for the team in the face of wider and taller opponents. In a noteworthy twist, the smallest man on court, JR, notched a team-high seven rebounds! Despite the dearth in size, D2003 grabbed a game high 27 rebounds against the opposing team’s 26.

Adi and Ryan both registered a game-high of thirteen points, with the latter grabbing five rebounds. Merrill chipped in four assists, while Ros contributed eleven points.

Agas’ hard fall in the last four minutes of the game threatened to derail our path to the “W.” But the front line upped the ante until the visibly shaken former UAAP star dug deep to return to the hard court. When the final buzzer sounded, we were ahead by a barely comfortable five points, 39-34.

It was an auspicious opening to the ABL 2012 season. Despite the absence of several key players, the team still managed to eke out a hard-fought, come-from-behind win – the first time we won an opening game in four ABL seasons. It was a far-cry from the 50-point shellacking we took in the final game of ABL 2011.

AHS 2003 Week 1 Stats (from the ABL site)

Ateneo Blue Eagles: Four-Peat Basketball Champions!

I wasn’t supposed to be at the Araneta Coliseum yesterday since I didn’t have tickets. I tried texting various friends for the valuable commodity, but it seemed as if everything was sold out. After my morning class in Makati, I took the bus to the Quezon City, since the MRT was (for the nth time) out of service.

It was a fortuitous, albeit unexpected change of plans.

Still groggy from my usual naps during long commutes, I checked my phone for messages. My friend Adi was asking whether I was still willing to watch. My face lit up! It took a few minutes for me to regain my bearing (I was still somewhat stuck in dreamland), when I realized that the bus I was riding in was slowly crawling towards the promised land itself – Cubao!

I could not believe my luck. This was the first UAAP basketball game I watched live this season – and only the second since college graduation. Perhaps it was due to the age gap between myself and the players on the UAAP lineup. Instead of religiously watching the games on TV, I found the live telecast particularly tame and distant. But then again, the fires of school spirit still burned.

Needless to say, I had loads of fun watching the game with my high school friends. I can hardly remember the last time I watched a UAAP basketball game live with my high school barkada (nine years ago perhaps?). The atmosphere was refreshingly electric, especially when the sea of Blue erupted in cheers.  It was a reunion of sorts, as I randomly bumped into a cacophony of familiar faces clad in the Blue and White.

Aside from a few terse moments at half-time, the game seemed like a walk-in-the park for the Blue Eagles. After leading by a mere point after the second quarter, the Tamaraws suffered a mean shellacking at the second half. Bannered by the super rookie duo of Kiefer Ravena and the seven-foot Greg Slaughter and reliable veterans Nico Salva, Kirk Long and Emman Monfort, the defending champions walloped the Morayta-based dribblers. The bench also chipped in, with Juami Tiongson having a productive stint, notching 11 points in 10 minutes, according to an Inquirer report.

Four-Peat!!!

I almost lost my voice cheering at Tonino Gonzaga’s fine defensive stops against FEU superstar RR Garcia! The intensity that he displayed on defense personified the efforts of the rest of the team. From my comfy Upper B seat, Tonino’s no-nonsense, stoically fearsome demeanor was highly recognizable. I just loved the way he banged the hard court, as he manned the tip of the Ateneo defense against the FEU half court set. The true blue Atenean, like the rest of the Blue Eagles squad, meant business.

I had a fun-filled Saturday, watching the Alma Mater reap impressive basketball success in the company of my good friends. Even if I hardly know the players (or most of the young Ateneans at the venue), the fabric of school pride was woven quite firmly.

To the Blue Eagles and the rest of the Ateneo community: Congratulations!

ABL 2009: Reunited and it feels so good (21 March 2009)

There’s something unique about a high school class’ bond. The old jokes, the classic misadventures and those memorable quirks of teenage life never seem to go out of a fashion. However, D2003 wasn’t the always the closest of classes. The only times when the boundaries of those various cliques and peer groups are bridged are during Christmas reunions, obscure parties and, of course, basketball games.

The prospect of least seeing each other each week during ABL season was a welcome thought; hence, the far-flung dreams of fielding a basketball team for the alumni league slowly took form.

I can still remember our first game – a loss at that. We were severely undermanned as our top ace, Merrill Lazo of UAAP Juniors fame, was sidelined by a knee injury. Moreover, a few of our bruisers and old reliables begged off due to commitment issues. Suddenly, we were staring eye-to-eye at the prospect of a losing season.

Since our division was composed mostly of our high school batchmates and their respective reinforcements from all over (several sections from Batch 2003 either merged or took in talented players), we thought about doing the same thing. Although our basketball team was formidable back in high school, we never won a championship. This isn’t high school intramurals anymore where a team’s roster is determined by the class list. This time around, one has to be realistic in order to be competitive.

But then again, our team name is “4D 2003.” We’ve been playing together since 1999 and frankly, we just wanted to enjoy the game the best way we knew it – with each other.

What started out as an exercise of fun in the spirit of old times became a gritty, personal battle for pride. We took it one possession, one point and one game at a time. Amidst the flurry of intense hardcourt exchanges, overtimes, bad games and spectacular plays, we eked out victory after victory after that first loss. Despite being undermanned, the core players of the team (MVP Ryan Agas, Defensive Player of the Year Yayo Puno, Mythical Team Member Adi Dimaliwat, Velden Lim, Gio Librojo and Paolo Rosales) became unwavering ramparts of strength, as the not-so-deep bench provided adequate support.

At first, we were in disbelief, even mildly amused at how good breaks seemed to go our way. Soon enough, the prospect of actually winning that top plum slowly became a reality.

We might have been one of the weaker teams on paper, but basketball – like any other sport – is played on the court, not on sheets of numbers and percentages. Sport goes beyond making baskets and grabbing rebounds. Indeed sports is about being the best, but sport goes beyond winning to something utterly simpler than victory and mere numbers – having a good time with one’s closest friends.

Years from now when we’re older, our faces lined with age, we would surely look back at these days with a certain sense of fondness, not just since we ended up on top, but because we did at as one unit, one team and one united class at long last.

ABL 2011 Game 6: Massacre (6 March 2011)

As the fourth quarter started, the team slowly walked to the hard court, seemingly wanting the bleeding to stop. But there is no mercy rule in basketball. Regardless of how large the lead, the game continues until the final buzzer. As soon as the final whistle sounded, I felt relieved. Finally, we can move on and put this 52-point shellacking behind us.

What the hell happened? A mere two years ago, we had a dream run to Andres Narvasa Division Championship. Despite parading an all-D2003 lineup, we held our own against the rest of the teams. This morning’s game was lowest of lows – statistically – for the team. We were outplayed, outclassed and overpowered. Without a doubt, Xavier 00-01 was the superior unit. Their cohesive lineup was composed of former standouts of Xavier School’s A-team. All throughout the game, we were bullied under the paint by their experienced bruisers. The absence of main man Ryan Agas and the shifty Paolo Rosales exacerbated our woes. Merrill Lazo’s hamstring injury limited the talented guard’s minutes.

We started decently enough. By the first quarter’s halfway point, the opposing team’s lead was a manageable 7-points. However, our faulty offense screeched to a standstill. The lead ballooned to double digits by the second quarter. Yayo Puno’s brave forays into the paint and Adi Dimaliwat’s 3-point sniping chipped the deficit to as low as 9 points by the 3rd quarter.

Until the artillery barrage started.

For the remainder of the game, we were rendered shell shocked by the hail of accurate three’s. We had no answer to their deadly outside shooting. The opposing team steamrolled into the token resistance we provided. They were unstoppable, from beyond the arc and inside the paint.

It’s ironic to note that I played my best game of the season in our worst-ever loss. As a competitor and as a team player, I cannot find solace in personal statistical achievements. The bottom line of basketball is to work as a team to get the “W.”

The season may be lost, but there’s a silver lining believe it or not. I know for a fact that, somehow, we’ll take this massive loss to heart and learn from it. It’s a wake-up call for the team to up the ante.

ABL 2011 Game 5: Learning Pains (19 February 2011)

At the end of the first half, the team was down 9-23. The superior ball rotation of AHS 4H 03 and their height advantage boded ill-for our pell-mell offense. Man-per-man, they were the much better team.

With the absence of main-man Merrill Lazo, the team could not set a disciplined offense. We relied on the hardworking Ryan Agas for dangerous one-on-four forays into the paint and on the sweet shooting Adi Dimaliwat for outside sniping. Yayo Puno and Velden Lim were also missing in action, leaving a wide hole in our defensive life and offensive rotation, respectively.

Despite our decent defensive effort, we were outrebounded. And since the objective of a basketball game is to score as much points as possible, a muddled offensive system is a major handicap.

To be honest, I had the impression that all was lost after the dreaded 1st half. But the guys pushed through, not wanting to give up the fight so early. The usually cool Agas exhibited a fiery demeanor. For the first time in recent memory, the former UAAP juniors standout became vocal, exhorting the rest of the guys to collapse on the big men, to run fastbreaks – to fight for every inch!

Slowly, gradually we cut down the lead. The entry of man mountain Jave Maceda was the catalyst. Even if we were still outrebounded, his hulking presence deterred many a shot taker. Marc Ruiz’s inspired play brought life into our sagging game.

At the game’s dying minutes, back-to-back three pointers by Dimaliwat and the mercurial Paolo “The Machine” Rosales saw the team going as close as 3 points, with 3 minutes remaining in the final quarter. Turnovers and missed free throws cost us the game.

But then again, our motley crew did the best we could under the circumstances. Besides, this morning’s game was a marked improvement from the double digit shellacking we took from the very same team at the start of ABL 2011.

Nevertheless, a loss is still a loss. We have a long way to go before we can ourselves a “basketball team.” Defeat, after all, is the best teacher.

ABL 2011 Games 3 and 4: Rising Up (29 January and 5 February 2011)

The team finally clawed its way up from a 0-3 hole, notching back-to-back wins. Breaks finally came our way as the team ended a losing streak that stretched all the way from the 2010 ABL season. Needless to say, the twin wins lifted our once sagging spirits.

Vs. AHS 4A 2003 (29 January 2011)

We were bamboozled by the A-boys during our ABL 2011 season debut, losing by 4 points. In a reprisal of the 2009 Andres Narvasa final, we again faced our first-round tormentors.

In the absence of former UAAP Juniors standout Pao Dizon, life became a lot easier for the team. The game was close all throughout, with neither team pulling away. It was a low scoring ball-game, as both teams notched identical 29.5% field goal percentages. We weren’t manhandled by the taller lineup of AHS 4A 2003, which boasts of several tall trees. (25 rebounds to 27 rebounds by the A-boys). We also had more assists and steals, courtesy of an active back court.

Photos from Rafa Moreno

A resurgent Yayo Puno, the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year for the Andres Narvasa Division, led all scorers with 16 markers on a red-hot 63.6% shooting. The absence of main man Ryan Agas hardly made a dent at all, as Puno and the streak shooting Adi Dimaliwat ably filled in the void.

First win of the season! (Photo from Rafa Moreno)

It felt great seeing that big ugly “O” go – to be back to our winning ways!

View the game stats here

Vs. AHS 4J 2003 (5 February 2011)

Morale was at an all-time high ahead of the crucial game versus the J-boys. After Dimaliwat’s three pointer in the opening minutes, the opposing team built up a 14 point lead in the next two quarters. Dimaliwat’s fearless sniping, Agas’ daredevil forays into the paint and Puno’s emphatic rebounds kept us in contention. But still, the team could not seem to find its momentum. Our outside shooting remained salty. The athletic duo of Mark Salvador and Chester Faytaren wreaked havoc on our 2-3 zone.

Photos from Jeric Angeles

A booming shot from beyond the arc by former Eaglets standout Merrill Lazo fanned the fires of a massive 2nd half comeback. Lazo, after struggling during the early games of the season, finally found his rhythm. He made two more three pointers, notching an impressive 50% shooting from three-point country. In a remarkable display of versatility, the shifty guard registered a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds).

Coming into the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, the team was ahead by 7 points. The J-boys equalized at the final seconds. With our best five unable to convert crucial free throws, the game went into overtime.

The extra period proved to be a gritty battle of attrition. Defense was the name of the game. Bodies were flying all-over as potentially-momentum turning shots were turned away. The game threatened to progress into a second overtime period after Agas missed two crucial free throws and Lazo’a mid-range shot hit nothing but air. A momentary lapse by the opposing team’s defenders enabled Agas to sneak in a buzzer-beating under-goal stab.

Agas' winning shot! (Photo from Jeric Angeles)

We were up 2 points with 0.4 seconds to go. The game was sealed.

View the game stats here

ABL 2011 Games 2 and 3: Down But Not Out (15 and 23 January 2011)

3 games into the 2011 ABL season, AHS 4D 03 is still winless. We may be buried underneath 3 lost games, but the season itself still has a silver lining.

15 Jan 2011 (Vs. AHS 4H 03)

Coming into our second ABL game last week, the team was in high spirits. No one came late. Save for a couple of players, the AHS 4D03 lineup was almost complete. However, we were ill-prepared for the shocking firepower of the opposing team. For the first two quarters, we were shell-shocked. Even if the core of the team was complete, we couldn’t seem to get into our groove.

By halftime, the lead had ballooned to a massive 15 points (or was 18 points? Honestly, I lost count).

View the stats here

The opposing team controlled the boards. Their attacks came from both the inside and the outside. To complicate matters, the team shot miserably from the free throw line. We couldn’t seem to move the ball around. Nevertheless, the team was able to narrow the lead to as low as 5 points in the third quarter, before a dagger of a three cut short our scoring run.

After the game, we looked far from the champion team of ABL 2009. What the hell happened?

23 Jan 2011 (Vs. Team Gavino)

Fast forward 8 days later. The team was hungry to get that first ever “W” – to climb out of a 4-game rut that stretched from the final two games of season 2010.

Paolo “The Machine” Rosales erupted for 8 straight points right after the tip-off (Oddly, Yayo Puno remarked before the game that the team has yet to grab the lead this season!). Finally, we found our chemistry again as our outside shooters hit their marks. Our undersized front court held their ground, as well. For the time this season, we weren’t bamboozled under the boards.

I can hardly look at the stats. It was terrible.

But that “W” remained ever so elusive. Despite stellar shooting nights from Rosales and Adi Dimaliwat, our free throw shooting and medium-range jumpers were atrocious. There were also some rough points in our 2-3 zone defense, which the opposing team’s  three-point shooters readily exploited.

We couldn’t hold on to our 1st quarter lead. The barrage of three-pointers from the opposing team’s snipers stunted our playing catch up.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere was less gloomy than the previous game. We knew that for the first time this season, we actually played as one cohesive unit – albeit in a losing effort.

After the game, the guys stayed for a bit, talking about the game. It sucks to lose. That’s a fact. But as I looked at faces of my friends – guys I’ve known for more than a decade – I felt a certain sense of warmth. Despite the loss, despite the one-sided game, we knew for a fact that we fought well.

In basketball – as in life – things such as these just cannot be quantified.

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