Fatima 5 hope to impress in Ballout basketball tournament

Rey Joble

Posted at Aug 18 2022 03:39 AM | Updated as of Aug 18 2022 03:40 AM

Our Lady of Fatima University head coach Ralph Rivera says winning and gaining experience will go together when his team plays in the Ballout tilt. Handout
Our Lady of Fatima University head coach Ralph Rivera says winning and gaining experience will go together when his team plays in the Ballout tilt. Handout

Our Lady of Fatima University coach Ralph Rivera watched his rival, Jinino Manansala and the rest of the St. Clare Saints, making a solid run in the PBA D-League.

The Saints, supported by Adalem Construction, were a game away from reaching the championship round before getting outplayed by Ecooil-La Salle Green Archers in Game 3 of their best-of-three semifinal series.

St. Clare is OLFU's rival in the NAASCU tournament. 

"Ang main league ng Our Lady of Fatima University ’yung NAASCU," Rivera told ABS-CBN News. "NAASCU is very competitive. Nakikita naman natin ngayon sa PBA D-League, nasa semis ’yung St. Clare. Naglalaro rin kami sa PRISAA. Maganda rin ’yung record namin doon. We always represent ’yung Region 4A and nakailang championships kami doon. Ang mailap talaga sa amin ’yung seniors ng NAASCU. Laging nado-dominate ng St. Clare."

According to Rivera – a former star player of San Beda and the Batangas Blades in the MBA – joining the Luzon-wide Ballout Hoops Open Challenge will raise the level of play the Phoenix.

He's hoping that his team can soar high and live up to its moniker.

"Kaya nga kami sumali sa Ballout," added Rivera. "We want to gain experience, makalaban ’yung mga mas experienced players. Nakita namin ’yung ibang teams, mga mama eh."

"Ang primary goal is to toughen up our players. S’yempre, winning is part of our goal. Hindi tayo sumasali sa tournament na ang gusto lang natin is to learn. Andu’n pa rin kami to win, pero ang bottomline, we want to prepare ourselves for the coming NAASCU tournament. Magkakaroon pa ulit ng other season for NAASCU."

In the coming Ballout Hoops Open Challenge on August 21, which will open at University of Makati, Rivera expects high-level competition, especially with ex-pros participating. OLFU, University of Makati and AMA University are the three school-based teams joining in the tournament.

Also seeing action are teams from Philippine Navy-Go-For-Gold, ARS Warriors-Cavite, San Mateo and Camarines Norte-Bicol.

Tournament commissioner is coaching legend and multi-titled mentor Joe Lipa.

"For sure, ’yung physicality lang ng game, mararamdaman na ng mga players ko yun," added Rivera. "Kung mararamdman nila na nasasaktan sila sa mga ganu’ng laro, talagang magigising sila na kailangan nilang magtrabaho. Magandang exposure makukuha namin dito sa tournament, kaya we're very happy na binigyan kami ng chance, pati na rin KalosPh and s’yempre, si Commissioner/Coach Cris Bautista. We're really blessed na nakasama kami."

Helping out Rivera in the coaching staff of the OLFU Phoenix are his former collegiate rivals, Christian Coronel and Don Villamin.
 
"Blessing talaga yung pagdating nila," said Rivera. "Timing rin, una kay Coach Don Villamin. Nasa point pa siya na lumalaban pa siya para bumalik sa PBA eh."

"Si Coach Christian naman, nag-start na siya ng coaching niya sa San Benildo. Nakahawak na rin siya ng mga high-school players. Destiny lang rin talaga na magkakasama kami. Nakakagulat halos isang decade na rin kaming magkakasama sa Fatima. It's really parang a family na rin. Magkakapatid kami. Naramdaman namin yan, lalo na nung pandemic."

According to Rivera, they intend to bring the college brand of play – fast-paced and relentless from start to finish.

"We're bringing in the college spirit brand of game, which is fast game, pumi-pressure, tuma-trap. Feeling ko ’yun ’yung magiging advantage namin," said Rivera. "Ayaw ’yan ng mga experienced players, ’yung makukulit. Maiinis sila roon. Kung ano ’yung strength namin, unang-una ’yung youth, kapag sinabi mong bata, mabibilis ’yan. ’Yun ’yung nakikita naming advantage. ’Yung average age namin is 21. May two to three players lang kami na 22 or 23 years old."

In competing in an open league like Ballout, Rivera planned on bringing in ex-pros or those who previously played for Fatima. Among those he eyed were Joseph Marquez and Nikko Panganiban, who became the Finals MVP in the recent VisMin Super Cup.

Both players are already committed playing in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.

"Sina Nikko Panganiban nga, ’yun ’yung unang plano namin," added Rivera. "Ang problem naka-sign sila sa MPBL, sila ni Joseph Marquez. Naglabas ng memo ang MPBL na bawal na maglaro ng ibang tournament, so ang nasa amin si Jerome Juanico, hopefully, si Jack Hoyohoy, makasama namin."

Hoyohoy, a 6-foot-3 forward, previously played for the Bulacan Kuyas while Juanico saw action for the Rizal Crusaders.

Bringing in an import for a college has been the norm in Philippine basketball, and OLFU was planning to bring in a 6-foot-8 player who can help out its campaign, but Ballout Hoops does not allow foreign players as of the moment.

But Rivera looks forward for the coming tournament and he expects his team to get the fitting workout before plunging back to action in NAASCU's upcoming season.

"Mayroon sana kaming inaawitan na import, sayang mga 6-8, 6-9 rin siya, pero hindi pa kasi open ’yung mga imports, pero sabi naman ng mga officials, baka next conference, baka i-allow na. Sayang. God attraction sana."

"But we look forward to this tournament, siyempre, if we're going to look for tune up games or tournaments, gusto namin ’yung mas mataas na level."