UAAP Juniors Basketball: Defense wins championships

All you need to know from the past week of UAAP Juniors action

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The Ateneo Blue Eaglets and NU Bullpups showcase the value of defense

A quick glance at the stat sheet between the Ateneo Blue Eaglets and NU Bullpups, and it would be hard to believe that the two best teams in the league had just played. The Blue Eaglets handily beat the NU Bullpups 64-49, but by no means was it pretty.

In a game between two teams with a bunch of notable stars, the stats they put up weren’t that pleasing. NU shot just 24 percent from the field, while Ateneo shot just 36 percent. In terms of points per 100 possessions, NU scored just 54.03 while Ateneo registered 70.58.

Rhayyan Amsali, arguably NU’s best player was limited to just six points on 2/13 shooting, while grabbing just three rebounds. Kai Sotto, the seven foot wunderkind only had six points on 2/9 shooting after scoring 20 points the previous game. Even SJ Belangel struggled, scoring 14 points but needing 13 shots to get to that number, while Dave Ildefonso also had difficulty putting up points. This wasn’t a pretty game at all.

But that’s the thing with High School basketball, offenses aren’t as pristine compared to their college counterparts. If anything, these teams deserve credit for playing terrific defense even though the pace of the game was very high

Sotto, for all his struggles in the offensive end, showcased impeccable timing and basketball IQ courtesy of the 12 rebounds that he grabbed and the eight (he had six by the end of the first half) blocked shots he put up. Belangel displayed the all-around play that makes college teams want him so much, by grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out eight assists and getting four steals.

In an era of offensive-driven systems, it is a fresh sight to see defense be valued this much by High School teams.

rlessness and toughness as the former Growling Tiger. Just that type of hope is enough for UST.

Show RJ Abarrientos some love

Talk about the FEU Baby Tamaraws, and almost instantly, people will mention LJ Gonzales. The all-around point guard out of Isabela has been the face of the FEU Baby Tamaraws for quite some time now. But let’s take some time to talk about one of the most unheralded prospects in the league: RJ Abarrientos.

The first thing that comes into people’s minds when talking about RJ is his more famous tito, Johnny. But he should be known more than that. Last season, he broke out versus the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in the Final Four, showcasing a ton of energy and smarts on both ends of the floor. Coach Allan Albano himself lauded Abarrientos during that series, and it’s been uphill for him ever since.

Versus the UPIS Junior Maroons, Abarrientos put up a solid, all-around line of 12 points, six rebounds and nine assists. What has been most evident this season is the sheer confidence he’s built from last season. For a High School player, confidence is key to unlocking one’s ability. Abarrientos has the confidence. Hopefully that unlocks more of his skills. FEU will be needing more from him in its attempted title defense.

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CJ Cansino gives UST fans a reason to be excited

Let’s face it, the UST program is not in the best shape. Even though Coach Boy Sablan was fired, there’s still many questions regarding the future of the program. The search for the coach has been ongoing, and in the process, recruitment will also be affected. Schools tend to look at big names from the likes of Ateneo, La Salle Greenhills, San Beda and recently, Mapua. The Growling Tigers program doesn’t have to look that far, as they have someone making a lot of noise who they can call their very own.

CJ Cansino already had flashes of greatness last year, but was mostly overshadowed by Season 79 Mythical Five member Inand Fornillos. With Fornillos in LSGH, Cansino has taken the reins as the go-to-guy of the Tiger Cubs, leading the league in scoring (26.8 points per game), while coming in second in terms of rebounding (12.8 rebounds per game).

Some thought, “Well, Cansino is the proverbial high usage player in a bad team,” after the Tiger Cubs got blown out versus the Ateneo Blue Eaglets last week, 94-63. But that game was a testament to the greatness of the Blue Eaglets rather than Cansino being a ball-hog. He’s willing to take the blame for losses, as he almost always fearlessly attacks the rim despite his (currently) thin frame. Versus La Salle Zobel, Cansino kept on attacking, getting to the line 14 times and scoring 23 points along with 15 rebounds. He’s like Ed Daquiaog in a lot of aspects. Don’t be fooled by his stature. He attacks the rim fearlessly and is stronger than he looks

Cansino is easily leading the league in statistical points. There will be arguments as to whether he deserves the MVP versus the likes of Sotto and Belangel, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is Cansino gives a dwindling UST program some form of hope.

The Adamson Baby Falcons will keep on fighting to return to the Final Four

Its game versus the UE Junior Warriors was supposed to just be a routine win for Adamson. That wasn’t the case at all, as the Junior Warriors pushed the Baby Falcons up until the first half. Major props to the Junior Warriors for putting up a great fight, but Adamson managed to pull through and notch their third win to keep in pace in the Final Four race.

With Jose Sabandal struggling (just eight points on 3/8 shooting), Adam and Andrey Doria both lit it up, combining for 35 points to help lead the Baby Falcons. With a Final Four slot certainly in play, Adamson will need as much help as possible from different sources. Teams know Sabandal will be a threat day in and day out. But with the likes of the Dorias and even the high-flying Adrian Manlapaz stepping up, things will be easier for the Baby Falcons in the long run.

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