Ato Ular was already having himself a game by the end of the first half in Marikina’s 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season match-up against the Sarangani Province on their home floor.
The 6-foot-4 bruiser tallied 11 points and five rebounds in just two quarters of play, leading the Shoemasters to a 57-42 halftime lead over the Marlins.
However, Marikina head coach Elvis Tolentino noticed something off in Ular’s approach.
Known as a scrapper who feeds off hustle plays in his very young career, the 6-foot-4 Ular chose to go on a different route on Friday’s game. Instead, he opted to force his shots, which resulted in an unusual 5-of-10 shooting clip.
And so Tolentino called his ace to the side to give him a piece of his mind.
“Kasi kanina ko pa napapagalitan eh, medyo matamlay. Buti nung huli… nung second half, medyo tumrabaho,” shared Tolentino, who is also a councilor in Marikina.
“Kasi ‘yung usual na laro niya hindi naman ganun. Hinahanap niya masyado yung tira niya, eh hindi naman gaganda laro niya kapag ganon. Go with the flow lang, sikapan lang sa rebounds and try to get open, that’s it. Pupunta naman sa kanya. Kapag nagpipilit, that’s a different story,” he added, since he wanted Ular to let the game come to him.
True enough, Tolentino’s scolding of Ular paid dividends, especially when the Marlins turned the once-lopsided game to a tight contest.
With the Shoemasters’ lead down to one, 95-96, Von Tambeling sliced through the heart of Sarangani’s defense for a layup, but missed.
Ular — who had been forcing his shots all game long — then heeded his mentor’s advice and waited for the perfect timing. He went up for the offensive board, which led to a monster putback and gave Marikina
a 98-95 lead with 20 seconds left.
“Natyempuhan. Sakto inaabangan ko rin talaga kasi kukuha ako ng rebound doon eh. Nasaktong nasa ring lang kaya dinunk ko na rin talaga,” recalled the 24-year-old Ular, who is using this stint as prep for his senior year in Letran.
Marikina went on to escape Sarangani Province, 99-95, behind Ular’s 24 points on a 54-percent shooting clip along with 14 rebounds and two assists. The win also upped the Shomasters’ standing to 7-21 in the North Division.
The pride of Tarlac City has been averaging 22.1 points and 15.1 rebounds in his seven games with Marikina. And Tolentino believes that if only Ular had come to the team much earlier, the Shoemaster’s campaign wouldn’t end in the elimination round.
“Ang ganda rin ng addition ni Ular sa amin, nag co-compliment siya kay [Yves] Sazon. Kung siguro nakapaglaro siya sa amin nung start pa lang, baka it’s a different scenario,” chimed Tolentino.
In other games, Gab Daganon poured 26 points in Basilan’s 88-71 beat down of Paranaque-Yabo Sports. Meanwhile, Bacolod tripped the playoff-bound Bulacan, 76-69.
Photo by Thel Suliva
Story by Jonash Dannug