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Tigers will continue fighting even without Teng

By Anthony Divinagracia Posted Aug 12th 2013

Despite the absence of his take-charge-guy, Pido Jarencio believes that the Tigers still have enough gas in the tank to make at least a Final Four return.

Pido Jarencio just couldn’t hide the frustration and dismay.

Missed shots lined up. Turnovers compiled. His legendary temper soared.  

And defending five-peat champion Ateneo de Manila University – yes, the erstwhile 0-3 Eagles of late – raced to a commanding 21-6 lead early in the second quarter.

University of Santo Tomas (UST) – misfiring, rattled, and visibly lost from the get-go – did not play according to Jarencio’s terms.

Yes, Aljon Mariano waxed hot in that same quarter alone, presiding over a 16-6 UST run that cut the deficit to 21-27 at the break.

Ed Daquioag then mounted his own scoring binge with a highlight-reel dunk and a gutsy triple midway through the fourth quarter to push UST within 46-49.

But none of these glimpses of individual talent could appease Jarencio, who took the Tigers to task after dropping a 57-61 result against the Eagles.

“Wala sabog kami offensively and defensively. Para kaming natutulog sa pansitan,” the seven-year recalled. “Naka-recover nga kami nung second half pero late na rin kasi naka-buwelo na yung Ateneo.”

For Jarencio, it has everything to do with their problematic rotation – and questionable motivation.

“All of a sudden we felt playing with a short rotation. Dito na rin naramdaman nung iba yung kawalan ni Jeric (Teng),” said Jarencio, referring to his injured captain who remains out of commission after suffering a severe shoulder injury.

Undeniably, Teng’s leadership anchored many UST comebacks and prevented some late-game meltdowns in the past. But with the graduating skipper in slings, the Tigers just couldn’t turn back Ateneo, National University (NU), and league-leading Far Eastern University (FEU), which accounted for UST’s three losses in the first round.

With Teng out of the mix, Jarencio was forced to elevate some of his players from the second group. This did not augur well for UST’s bench and keeping fresh legs on the court suddenly became a puzzle.

“Mahirap ‘pag naghahabol kami. Like sa game with Ateneo, ‘di ko ma-rotate ng husto yung mga player. Nung mawala si Jeric yung ibang nasa second group nalalagay ko sa first group. Yung nasa third group nalilipat ko naman sa second group kaya bumababaw yung rotation.”

Dead last

Jarencio’s dismay is written in the stats.

How come a team mentored by one of the most feared – and revered – snipers in Philippine basketball end up dead last in 3-point shooting?

“Nagulat din ako e,” said Jarencio of UST’s league-worst 23.9 percent clip from beyond the arc.

And how bad is that? In seven games, the Tigers just managed to convert 23 out of their 113 attempts despite having proven gunners like Clark Bautista, Kevin Ferrer, and Mariano in the team.

“Naka-apekto siguro sa shooting niya (Bautista) yung pagpo-point guard niya. Si Kevin (Ferrer) ‘di naman consistent. Si Aljon (Mariano) ‘di naman tumitira masyado sa area na yun. Libre yung mga tinitira namin kaso ‘di lang talaga pumapasok.”

The Tigers are also at the bottom when it comes to turnover points, making just 10.1 percent out of their opponents’ miscues. Perimeter shooting is an equal cause of concern with UST raking only 21.6 percent from its jumpers.

Good thing, the Tigers fared well in other departments to balance their fortunes. UST is second in 2nd chance points (11.9 percent), freethrows (71.2 percent), and points allowed (67.9 a game), to complement a mid-season best 5.4 steals an outing and underscore the Tigers’ vast improvement on the defensive end.

While Jarencio is pleased to hear the good news, consistency remains an issue for the firebrand tactician.

“Ok sa akin na maganda depensa namin. Kaso minsan bumibitaw kami. This game pe-pressure tapos susunod na game relax. Minsan first quarter may depensa tapos second quarter mababaw tapos next quarter aggressive naman,” he said.

Even his wards’ individual performances are in limbo, Jarencio stressed.

“Si Karim (Abdul) wala pa. Last year consistent siya na double-double sa first at second round. Si Keivn at Aljon, pasulpot-sulpot lang yung laro. Si Paolo Pe at Kim Lo, hindi pa rin nagpapakita. ‘Di ko naman pwede i-push nang i-push yan, e mga bata pa rin ‘yan e, bumibigay din sa pressure.”

All these root out from one thing – Teng’s sudden exit.

“Ang hirap nilang mag-adjust after mawala si Jeric. Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘wag tayong umasa masyado kay Jeric. Kung nandiyan siya e’di maganda pero kung wala dapat gumawa tayo ng paraan.”

Discounting Teng, only three Tigers are averaging in double figures with Abdul racking up 13.9 points a game, followed by Ferrer (13.4) and Mariano (12.6). Bautista is near that bunch with 9.9 points a contest. On the other hand, UST’s point-guard convert Daquioag has seen marked improvement with his game, averaging 8.4 points and 2.6 assists an outing.

Still, Jarencio was far from impressed.  

“Dismayado tayo kasi ‘di natin na-achieve yung projection natin after the first round na 6-1 or 5-2. We could have won against NU even without Teng.  Against FEU maaga rumatsada pero pagdating sa fourth quarter bumigay kami. Against Ateneo, sa umpisa pa lang naiwan na kami. Hindi dapat ganun.”

Instead, the Tigers managed only a 4-3 record to tie NU and University of the East for second place.

Staying together

For UST fans, the million-dollar question now pervades: Is Jeric Teng ready to suit up in the second round?

“Hindi ko pa rin alam. Day-to-day basis siya e,” said Jarencio of Teng, who is still undergoing therapy while joining the Tigers’ conditioning workouts to stay in shape.

“Wala pa ring linaw kung kailan siya pwede maglaro ulit. But I hope sana makabalik siya.”

Meanwhile, as early as last Sunday, Jarencio has started to hold quarters with the team.

“Maaga kami ngayon (mag-quarters). Dati nung Final Four lang. Tingin ko kasi importante na magsama-sama na kami ngayon pa lang para maasyos namin yung mga problema namin as a team. Wala munang gimik-gimik, aral at training lang muna. Yun ang mahalaga  sa’min ngayon”, he said.

Like in the past, Jarencio refuses to give any forecast heading into the second round. But one thing is for sure about his struggling wards.

“Magre-respond yung mga bata. Marami namang paraan na pwedeng gawin.”

Despite the absence of his take-charge-guy, Jarencio believes that the Tigers still have enough gas in the tank to make at least a Final Four return.

“It’s doable. Dikit-dikit naman ang standings. Marami pang pwedeng mangyari. Maganda yung posisyon namin. Kung ako tatanungin, mas maganda dumeretso na yung mga contender tapos hintayin na lang nila kami na maka-silat.”

We’ll see.