It can be maddening for a coach to see his team dig themselves into a hole with boneheaded and selfish play.
On two occasions for the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals, already playing catch up to the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) Pirates, they fell into a spate of turnovers by two different players who went looking for their own shot if not the spectacular play thereby squelching whatever rally they had left in them.
The first was in the third period with the score was 45-38 in favor of LPU when the Generals managed a stop. They ran a two-on-one break with rookie forward Mario Bonleon bringing up the ball. On his left was teammate Enjerico Diego who scored the last four points for his team, one of which came from a pass by Bonleon. Diego was ahead and in a perfect position to score. Bonleon may have thought that Pirates guard Shaq Alanes might have been wise to the forward pass so he elected to drive.
Big mistake. Bonleon attempted a meek attempt that barely grazed the rim and Alanes pulled down the defensive rebound. However, EAC center Laminou Hamadou, who had turned the shaded lane into a no-fly zone, forced a LPU miss and EAC had a chance to once more cut down the lead.
Except in their next possession, Bonleon threw the ball away again.
LPU sandwiched a bucket by EAC guard Jose Moarada with an 18-footer by Jebb Bulawan and another jumper by teammate Wilson Baltazar. Now instead of cutting down the lead, the Pirates had a little more comfort heading into the final period, 49-41.
Opportunity wasted #1.
Laminou continued his sterling game with a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to six to start the fourth. He blocked LPU rookie guard Noah Lugo in LPU’s next possession but EAC guard Francis Munsayac turned the ball over.
Opportunity wasted #2, #3, and #4.
Two Morada turnovers later — one where he tried to be fancy with his crossover that takes an average of six seconds to execute and one where he threw a fancy and blind pass to an open Dan Corilla — and an ill-advised triple off an inbound — LPU’s lead was 15 after Jean Nguidjol scored twice underneath and Lugo redeemed himself with a triple.
EAC never recovered from their errors as they fell 69-55 to drop to 2-7; the same record as LPU.
LPU has slightly more talented players than EAC and they are taller too. EAC, they rely on a small core to carry them — Hamadou, forward Sidney Onwubere who is playing out of position at the four (he is a three), and Munsayac. When only one of them scores in double figures (Munsayac) to the three of LPU (Nguidjol, Joseph Gabayni, and Wilson Baltazar) then you’re in trouble.
EAC’s first year head coach Andy De Guzman, who took over the reigns from Gerry Esplana this season after serving as an assistant the last few years, knows he doesn’t have too much material to work with. His Generals are a far far cry from his star-studded FEU teams of the late-1980s where he played alongside Jack Tanuan, Vic Pablo, Dodong Postanes, Johnny Abarrientos, and Joe Francisco all who like him went on to play in the PBA.
De Guzman himself was definitely no slouch. He was named to the UAAP’s Mythical Five in 1989 and once in the pros, he averaged 10.5 points per outing with Swift’s and Sta. Lucia. He won a championship as part of Swift’s and Yeng Guiao's first PBA champion team during the 1992 Governors’ Cup.
“That is why we have to work together,” he reasoned trying to hold back his disappointment following the loss to LPU.
De Guzman badly wanted to win this game that would close out EAC’s first round campaign on a good note — three wins in their last four matches if they defeated LPU. He didn’t say it but it would have also been a nifty gift by his team to him as it is his birthday in two days’ time (August 15). After he replaced Esplana as head coach, De Guzman vowed to bring over his winning ways to EAC that hasn’t seen any glory since the days of Ronjay Buenafe.
“When I played for good teams in the UAAP and the PBA, I took it for granted,” he reminisced. “It is so much more harder when you’re coaching a school that doesn’t have much resources. But laban lang. Disappointing pero next game na lang ulit subukan natin.”
The coach shuffled off. But not before shaking his head at a missed opportunity.
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