MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin said it best, after the Blue Eagles closed in on the UAAP Season 82 crown with a 91-77 triumph over University of Santo Tomas (UST) on Saturday evening.
"Mark Nonoy," said the coach, "is obviously a problem for us."
The UST guard had given the Blue Eagles all they could handle during the 27 minutes and 55 seconds that he spent on the court in Game 1. Nonoy had already established himself as one of the fastest – if not the fastest – player in the league, and in Game 1 he showed that he could pile up the points, too.
Nonoy made half of his 14 attempts from beyond the arc for 26 points, despite Ateneo giving him a variety of defensive looks – from SJ Belangel to Matt Nieto to Gian Mamuyac. He put up 12 points in the second quarter to help UST come to within three points, 41-38, before the Blue Eagles pulled away again.
The rookie guard was in tears after the game as his efforts went for naught, but the gravity of his performance was not lost on his opponents.
"He played a tremendous game. He ran himself right into the ground. He was dead at the end of the game. That's very courageous. He got a lot of respect for that," Baldwin said of Nonoy.
"Obviously, he's a great player, he doesn't play like a rookie eh," said Mamuyac. "Kasi, if he does, he wouldn't be scoring (26 points) on us, 26 in a finals Game 1."
Mamuyac, who prides himself on being Ateneo's defensive stopper on the perimeter, pointed out that they did a good job on UST's other scoring options. Season 82 MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo was limited to 13 points and 10 rebounds, after averaging nearly 17 points and 14.7 rebounds in the elimination round.
Renzo Subido (8 points on 3-of-11 shooting) and Rhenz Abando (3 points on 1-of-5 shooting) were silenced for most of the game.
"We'll try to do a better job of stopping that young guy," Mamuyac said of Nonoy. "Sobrang bilis kasi niya eh, and grabe ang shooting niya."
Mamuyac anticipates that Baldwin will create some schemes to stop the Negros Occidental native, but he also welcomes the challenge of trying to stop Nonoy one-on-one.
"As a defender, you wouldn't want your coach to have to think of a scheme just to stop a player eh," he said. "Dapat, you can, by your own, stop that player."
"I take it as a challenge," Mamuyac said of getting the Mark Nonoy assignment.
Stopping Nonoy – or at least, limiting him – will go a long way towards Ateneo's goal of securing a third consecutive men's basketball title. A win in Game 2 will also give the Blue Eagles a perfect 16-0 campaign, but Mamuyac insists that is not their focus.
"We just wanna win Game 2. We're 1-0, but then, our mindset coming into Game 2 is it's 0-0," he said. "We ust want to do our jobs in the next game, and it's just the next game."
Game 2 of the best-of-3 finals is on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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