All eyes on Pingoy in Eagles-Tams clash

Jerie Pingoy, an Ateneo transferee from FEU high school, will make his much awaited debut in the UAAP seniors basketball tournament. File Photo

MANILA, Philippines -- This match that has blood ties and deep-rooted sentiments.

It's the last year of Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, and Roger Pogoy. Through the years, the first stumbling block to their title aspirations was Ateneo. Then last season, NU. Furthermore, Ateneo has been a thorn on the side of Tolomia and the Escoto brothers Russel and Richard, since high school.

Second, Jerie Pingoy, their former high school star who spurned their seniors team to transfer to Loyola Heights is making his debut. Several years ago, during the Master Game Face All-Star Game, Tolomia took shots at Pingoy. Before some of his Ateneo teammates on the All-Star Game could check in and possibly retaliate, Tolomia was pulled out.

You can also say the same for Pingoy, who after being denied a chance to play for two seasons, the nearly forgotten star is looking to get his basketball dreams back on track. Ateneo too, would love to check their old foe and validate their own aspirations this season.

FEU Coach Nash Racela, himself with blue blood in him, says that the disappointment of last season's finals is still there but the team is mostly over it. "It's a different time and under different circumstances."

Both squads have reloaded with arguably better lineups but the Tamaraws have the benefit crew with loads of experience. And hopefully, in the thoughts of Racela, "wiser."

Everyone knows the caliber of Tolomia and Belo but Roger Pogoy is playing even better. Raymar Jose will be a challenge and a half for the Blue Eagles' frontline. FEU's Monbert Arong who could be this team's third leading scorer will making his debut.

Ateneo for all their talent have two proven commodities in college hoops - Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal. Kief is arguably the best at either of the two guard positions. Pessumal, while battle-tested, can be streaky. I have no doubt though that this year, he'll do better.

Arvin Tolentino had a great first half but saw a slide in the second round as he was relegated to the bench with his numbers dropping. That is very much like Art dela Cruz' 2010 year with Ateneo. How Tolentino adjusts in his second year in blue and white and in the UAAP bears close watching.

What to look forward to:
I think FEU will try to play a little more physical basketball with Ateneo, every a finesse team. They will want to see how their corps of rookie point guards from Pingoy to Hubert Cani and Matt Nieto respond to that physicality.

No Chris Newsome means that Mac Belo could take the forward matchup. The onus is on that young forward line of Ateneo to check his inside and outside game.

Other points of interest would be to see how Chib Ikeh and Prince Orizu battle each other in the slot.

Ateneo will have the best cadre of young guards in Cani, Pingoy, and Matt Nieto. How they do is anyone's guess. One half of the Nieto twins, Mike, will have his hands full playing the three-spot. In the Juniors he outplayed taller players en route to a MVP Award. He slides to the three where there are even taller players and one's who like to play outside. How he adjusts bears watching.

FEU will try to blitz Ateneo with their inside and outside attack (they run the dribble drive). Ateneo will need teamwork from everyone to battle tooth and nail. 

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