Saturday, September 8, 2012

Watching UE win. Watching The Moment unfold.

By Chuck Araneta
@chuck_araneta on Twitter

The UE Red Warriors huddled in front of their coach, Boysie Zamar. Players waited for instructions. With eyes wide open, fixed on Zamar’s face, they anticipated instructions. They betrayed their anxious spirits by breathing heavily.

On the other side, the Ateneo Blue Eagles huddled too. 9-1. Four-time champions. In theory, they could've simply done their thing and won this game. Too much championship experience. Too much poise. Yet in reality, they couldn’t blow these pesky Warriors out of the Mall of Asia Arena. In truth, Ateneo’s defense just hoped to send the game into overtime.

The Warriors stared at coach Boysie Zamar. A small smirk appeared on the coach’s face. It was a smile of comfort, assurance, from someone who has seen everything. He looked back into their eyes and said,“Who wants to get the ball has got the biggest heart.”

Zamar drew a heart on the white board reserved for complex Xs and Os. Then, he challenged his boys.

“Who wants the ball”?

Point guard Roi Sumang answered,“Ako, coach. Ako.”

Sumang seized the moment. He would drink the red pill. He would take the ring to Mordoor. He would have the ball in his hand with the game on the line.

Coach Zamar found his man. Zamar's simple instruction for Roi was to attack. Find a way to deliver. It was an outrageous display of trust in his young star, as Zamar empowered Sumang to simply do the right thing in the absence of best-laid plans.

One last reminder from Zamar:

“Itong pinaka-masarap maglaro e. Ito ang pinaka-maganda maglaro”

Past all the glamour and glitter, the idolization of college and pro players, sponsorships, endorsements, accusations and trades, we saw the beginning of it all. We saw our love for the game. Remember that? It was pure as an Allan Caidic jumpshot. It all started with a basketball in our hands. Whether on cement or wooden courts, it felt the same. That love of the moment. Then, we let it fly. 

So with 7 seconds left, the Warriors took the floor with a chance to win the game. Sumang was empowered. He received the ball and grabbed an opportunity. He attacked bigger, stronger and more marketable opponents. An opposing guard was in the way. He drove around him. A 7-footer collapsed on him. He remained unperturbed. Like classic underdogs, he found the behemoth’s weak spot.
Teammate Chris Javier executed a perfect baseline cut to the wing. Sumang attacked and served the perfect pass. Javier caught it, launched it and sealed the outcome.




Maybe this Red Warrior victory will be a mere footnote after the season. UE might lose their remaining games. Ateneo could sweep the rest of the tourney and win their 5th championship. On the other hand, Ateneo might forever regret losing this game. UE could sustain the streak. Javier could score even more game winners before this is all over. Sumang could become the point guard sensation of the season. He deserves it anyway. Maybe. The uncertainty of the future doesn’t matter. The relevance of the moment does. It reminds us so gloriously of why we love this game so much, why some have devoted their lives in pursuit of basketball excellence, why sometimes we just need to let it fly. CA

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