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Stats Don’t Lie: How the Bulldogs won the Finals with Defense



Coach E said it best – “we had to rely on what got us here. And that’s defense”.

We’ve all heard the old basketball adage – Defense wins championships – and as cliché as it is, this was certainly the case in the Finals.

In their wins in games 2 and 3, National University held their counterparts from Morayta to just 47 and 59 points, with the former setting a new Finals record during the Final Four era. Furthermore, this also marked FEU’s two lowest scoring outputs the entire season.

What made this even more impressive was that FEU had ranked at the top of several offensive categories throughout the season. After the elimination round, FEU was in the top 3 in PPG, offensive rating (points per possession), and FG% (and effective FG%). With pro prospects Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo at the forefront of their dribble drive attack and capable role players like Atchi Inigo, Carl Cruz and Roger Pogoy supplementing them, watching FEU was, as they say, poetry in motion.

So what the heck happened during the Finals? Here are some observations from the Finals that showcase how stingy NU’s defense was.


Throughout the season, the Bulldogs were praised as being the most disciplined team in the league. Credit this to Coach Eric Altamirano, who is known to be a strict and meticulous teacher. Rarely did the Bulldogs gamble on defense and almost always made the correct rotation.

The reason for this is a strong belief that teams will struggle against their halfcourt defense. The Bulldogs recorded the slowest pace in the league at just under 73 possessions per game, believing that a slower, more deliberate pace enhanced their defensive strategy. In half court situations (not including putbacks and secondary break opportunities), teams shot just 30.28%. To put this in perspective, the next closest team was De La Salle University at 33.55%, a full 300 percentage points behind.

After getting blitzed by the Tamaraws in game 1, the Bulldogs slowed the game down in games 2 and 3. As a result, while FEU was able to escape with some secondary break baskets, pure fast break layups were far and few between. This pace favored the Bulldogs and prevented the Tamaraws from establishing any sort of rhythm.

Shutting down role players & containing the stars

Similar to what they did against Ateneo and their Ravena + Newsome combo, National U did a great job locking on the “non-stars” while making guys like Tolomia and Belo work for theirs in games 2 and 3.

Check out the stats during for the duo below:


 Mac Belo shot chart:
Belo shot chartMike Tolomia shot chart:
Tolomia Shot chart finals

A look at counting numbers would suggest that the duo did their part, scoring a combined 36 points per game. Going through the game tape and the stats, the dynamic duo had a rough outing against the likes of Paolo Javelona, Rev Diputado, Gelo Alolino, and Glenn Khobuntin.

For one, the two combined for just 2 assists in those two games, as their teammates had a tough time converting their field goal attempts. Forced to create for themselves, there were more than a few times where they were forced to chuck up contested jumpers, floaters and runners near the end of the shot clock.

Mike was actually very effective in his drives to the basket, going 10/14 on drives to the basket while earning three trips to the free throw line during the series. However, it appears that NU was content with baiting him into going 1v1 or taking contested jumpers coming pick & roll sets. At the end of the 3-game series, Tolomia finished 5/18 (27.8%) on isolation plays and just 2/17 when shooting coming off a ball screen.

Still, one of the biggest factors in the Finals was how NU made sure that other players like Carl Cruz, Pogoy, and Inigo didn’t get going. After combining for 26 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists in game 1, Pogoy and Inigo 14 for the rest of the series, lowlighted by the former’s zero point output in game 3.

Meanwhile, after exploding for 4 three pointers in their round 1 encounter, Carl Cruz was a total non-factor the rest of the way, hitting 4 three pointers in the 3 games after. Getting little production from him hurt because he could have helped spread the floor to open driving lanes for Pogoy and Inigo. Without him connecting from outside, defenders could sag a little bit more in the paint and help their teammates out.

Containing the dribble drive

As I mentioned earlier, National U was able to establish the pace it wanted in games 2 and 3, and this prevented FEU from establishing it’s vaunted dribble drive offense.

In game 1, FEU had 37 finished drive plays (includes drive and kicks / drops). They finished 12/25 (44.0%), including drawing 3 fouls, including 8/17 (47.1%) on direct drives to the basket. In the subsequent games, FEU only had 54 finished drive plays, including just 9/33 39.1%) on direct drives to the basket.

Furthermore, when using ball screens – another initiator of the dribble drive – the Tamaraws were a paltry 5/34 (8/19) on pick & roll plays, including 0/10 on pick & pops.

The drop in both activity and production from drive plays was a function of pace, adjustments on NU’s part (bigs dropping down to contest shots), containment and poor outside shooting. Because of their discipline, straight drives were harder to come by and with FEU’s outside shooters not finding their marks, there was an opportunity for guys like Troy Rosario, Alfred Aroga, and Henri Betayene to help out more than usual.


Throughout this season, National University’s defense stood out. From holding Adamson to just 25 points in their first round encounter, to Alfred Aroga’s eight blocks against Ateneo in Round 2, to getting the necessary stops to beat the Blue Eagles in the Final Four, it was always all about defense for the underdogs from Sampaloc, Manila.

That’s the beauty of defense. It’s an unglamorous job and many of the nitty, gritty details often get overlooked. There’s so much that goes into having proper technique, advanced scouting and analytics, and TRUSTING your teammates that casual fans don’t recognize. The Bulldogs embraced this mentality and were rewarded with a title.

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Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory



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2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.

The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.

The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.

“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.

Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.

Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.

Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.

Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.

While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.

It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.

The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.

As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.

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Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’



Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best, being the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he continue answering the call when Gilas needs it as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Terrence Romeo invited to join Pilipinas 3×3 for World Cup



Stronger than ever

Scoring sensation Terrence Romeo has been invited by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the Philippine team in the upcoming FIBA 3X3 World Cup, according to Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.

Romeo, who is currently out due to a right knee injury, has been rehabilitating his injury and is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup campaign of the Globalport Batang Pier and the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Baka sa second conference na ko makabalik kasi talagang gusto ko malakas ako pagbalik ko,” the 25-year-old shared during Chooks-to-Go Live last January 2.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios personally met with the 6-foot guard, inviting him to be part of the Philippine team.

Romeo has a lot of 3×3 basketball experience under his belt.

Back in 2014, Romeo was part of the Manila West 3×3 team during the Manila Masters. He was adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player.

The 2018 3X3 World Cup will take place from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

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Red Spikers extinguish Blazers for second win



Shaking off a forgettable outing against the Perpetual Help Altas last January 11, the San Beda College Red Spikers vented their ire on defending champions College of Saint Benilde Blazers in four sets, 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, and claimed their second win of the season, Friday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

“Sabi ng coaches kalimutan na yung talo,” shared captain Lorenze Santos of what transpired after that match.

So, in this game, the San Beda team poured on what they worked hard for to regain momentum. “Binuhos po namin lahat ng ginawa namin sa training [ngayon].”

After tight starts in all the first two sets, the Mendiola-based side pulled away to register the seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.

Nonetheless, summoning the heart of a champion and led by seniors Isaah Arda and Jethro Orian, the reigning champions pulled off gritty runs to snag the third set and making a tussle of the fourth.

Ultimately, Adrian Viray virtually ended the match with a vicious serve, which the Blazers failed to convert.

The prolific outside hitter finished with 17 points, 11 coming from attacks and five off blocks. Former skipper Mark Encino also registered 17 markers.

The Red Spikers (2-1) will face the Mapua University, also at 2-1, on Friday, January 19.

Orian was such a presence at the net, ending up with 20 points for the Taft-based squad.

The defending champions Blazers (2-1) will try to bounce back later that day against San Sebastian College (0-3).

The Scores:

SBC 3 – Viray 17, Enciso 17, Santos 11, Patenio 7, Amagan 7, Desuyo 3, Zabala 0, Genobaten 0, Manliclic 0, Casin L.

CSB 1 – Orian 20, Arda 18, Bacani 6, Basilan 4, Bautista 4, Magsino 2, Martinez 0, Garcia 0, San Miguel 0, Saldavia 0, Dy L.

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