A week has already passed since the Universities Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 85 men’s basketball tournament opened and it has been thrilling so far. To no one’s surprise, defending champions University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons remain the only undefeated team with a 3-0 slate, followed by the other season favorites De La Salle University Green Archers, Ateneo Blue Eagles, and National University (NU) Bulldogs with identical 2-1 cards.
The highlight of last weekend’s game was of course the early meeting between archrivals Ateneo and La Salle. This time, the Green Archers scored the upset with an 83-78 win over the Blue Eagles, ending a seven-game losing streak to Ateneo that dated back to the finals of Season 80. The other winners were the Adamson University Falcons over the University of the East Red Warriors, 74-61, UP over the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 73-67, and NU over the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 69-63.
Of these exciting weekend games, the guards mostly stole the show. The stellar plays from the victors’ guards had a colossal impact in the outcomes of these games. And so, the main takeaways from this weekend’s games are all about these guards.
Winston establishes himself as the new King Archer
Fil-Am guard Deschon “Schonny” Winston has been sensational in all three games so far this season. He led the Green Archers in scoring in all three games – 27 points versus UP, 19 points versus UST, and 25 points versus Ateneo – for an average of 23.6 points per game. Sure, we saw his scoring prowess already in Season 84. But it’s looking like he is ready to take over the UAAP this season by being more aggressive on the scoring end and willing to take the big shots for DLSU. Against the Fighting Maroons, Schonny also hit a remarkable 66.7% shooting clip. Versus the Eagles, he also led his team in assists with six. Early in the tournament, La Salle is already showing signs that it is a serious contender for the crown. And Winston is ready to assume the title as King Archer.
With Fortea at the point, Maroons don’t miss Cagulangan so much
Last season’s finals hero JD Cagulangan has yet to see action for the UP Maroons this Season 85 due to muscle issues. But the defending champions hardly miss their spectacular sweet-shooting point guard due to the outstanding showing of Terrence Fortea, who more than stepped up to the plate and rose to the occasion in the absence of JD. Fortea, a sophomore guard and former UAAP Juniors champion with the NU Bullpups, proved steady in all his three games, scorching the hoop with 15, 12, and 17 markers against DLSU, AdU, and FEU respectively. He also averaged 5.3 dimes in three games, with a high of 9 versus the Archers. Cagulangan will always be remembered for that step-back winning trey in Game 3 of last season’s finals that ended the Maroons’ 36-year dry spell. But Fortea is also notable for his long treys ever since his high school days. Last Saturday, he unloaded a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond the arc to torch the Tams. His confidence is now sky high. Imagine when Cagulangan comes back. Terrence and JD would make a deadly backcourt duo for UP. Scary thought.
Lastimosa is more effective as facilitator than main gunner for the Falcons
After two successive setbacks, the Adamson Falcons finally got to the win column with an impressive 74-61 rout of the UE Warriors. The San Marcelino-based dribblers displayed a balanced offense all throughout the game that paved the way for the big win. JM Sabandal topscored for Adamson with 16 followed by Jerom Lastimosa’s 11. But the other Falcons also had their fingers in the scoring pie with Vince Magbuhos and Lenga Douanga contributing nine points each. A total of 11 Falcons scored versus the Warriors. Now, Lastimosa is without a doubt the main man of the team. When they need a basket, they almost always get the ball in the hands of the spitfire from Dumaguete. Jerom sizzled with 25 points in the Falcons’ defeat to the Eagles as he shot 9-of-19 from the field. In their contest versus the Warriors, Jerom was more of a superb facilitator and floor leader, which led to the Falcons’ hot 47.7% field goal shooting. He tallied seven assists in that game too. Of course, when the game is on the line, expect Adamson coach Nash Racela to still go to Lastimosa for the last shot. But with him orchestrating the offense more than actually taking the shots, Adamson’s offense is a lot more fluid and a lot less predictable.