MANILA, Philippines – Much of the attention has been given to Ateneo's star guard Kiefer Ravena, but forward Chris Newsome has quietly been having a strong season for the Blue Eagles as well.
Newsome scored a season-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds in Ateneo's 78-73 win last Wednesday. Before Ravena stole the show with his crunch time heroics, it was Newsome who carried the Blue Eagles, showing no fear of UE's Charles Mammie as he repeatedly drove to the basket en route to 21 free throw attempts.
The soft-spoken forward said he was merely playing his part for Ateneo.
"We knew they were going to be tight on Kiefer because of what happened in the last game (against UE in the first round), so of course I have to be aggressive," said Newsome.
"I just play my part," he added. "I know a lot of attention is on Kiefer; he's been playing really, really well. So everybody else just has to play consistently. I take it upon myself to lead by example, because this team needs everybody else to be consistent, for us to be a championship-caliber team."
"That's why I play my part – defending, getting rebounds, hustling, doing whatever I can, because I want the rest of my team to see that and also to feed off it."
Ateneo coach Bo Perasol praised Newsome's ability as a two-way player, noting that he not only shuts down the other team's scorers, but has been a solid source of points for the Blue Eagles as well. Newsome has been averaging a shade under 15 points per game so far this season.
"He really has that capacity to defend the scorers of other teams, and kung wala man kaming mga bigger guys to get the rebounds, he gets the rebounds for us," Perasol said of Newsome, who also grabs 7.2 rebounds per game.
"The bonus is, he's also scoring for us, so napakalaking tulong niya sa team namin. In fact, one of the major reasons, aside from Kiefer delivering for us in the end, most of the time, it's the stability of Chirs Newsome that's really helping us out," added the Ateneo coach.
Newsome, who was third in the MVP race at the end of the first round, clearly takes pride in his defense, saying it is a priority for him.
"The coaches, they always say that defense wins championships. It's been that way, and it's part of the Ateneo culture in itself. There's a banner in Moro (Lorenzo Sports Center) that says 'Defense Wins Championships,'" he related.
"I'm a strong believer in that, and I lead by example. Maybe if Kiefer is in foul trouble, maybe he can't play as hard on defense as he normally does. So we have to have somebody that's in there, chasing around, going after the ball and scrapping," he added.
Wednesday's victory over UE put Ateneo on top of the league standings again with a 7-2 record, but they face another challenge on Sunday as they take on the National University Bulldogs, the team that gave them their first loss of the season.
Newsome is relishing the task ahead.
"I'm excited to play NU, to get this rematch back. NU is a really tough team; they're a really smart team and they're very disciplined," he said. "It's gonna be a great test for us to see if we learned from our mistakes in the first round."