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Women’s caging

  • Written by Lito Cinco
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 197

THE UAAP remains to be the major women’s basketball tournament in the land even with the advent of  commercial leagues whose future remain unsure with the lack of the necessary support   to sustain  them on a long term basis.

However,  it is also a fact that UAAP women’s basketball does not receive the same support as  in men’s basketball in terms of media exposure both in print and broadcast media, and  we all know that  any  sporting event here  will always need all the media  exposure it can get to be attractive to sponsors who in turn can spell the difference between success and failure.
I have been  both at the Mall of Asia Arena and  Araneta Coliseum to watch  women’s basketball, both  involving  the University of the East Lady Warriors with whom I have been involved as a pro bono team building mentor with its head coach Ai Lebornio, for me, one of the better female coaches who understand the secret in developing a team, with no short cuts. And she  has a track record to match  as the now defunct Lady Pirates of Lyceum won five  straight WNCAA titles under her mentorship.
And in UE , which she joined 4 years ago, the team had a previous pathetic record, she is duplicating   it in terms of developing a team from scratch, on her first year, the  team won two games, one of them a forfeited game, the following year, if  I recall right,  she won 3 or 4 games, and last year, UE surprised everyone  by barging into the Final 4, it was in the late 70’s  that the  team did the same.
Now UE is in second place behind defending champion National University, UE totes a 3-1 record  while NU remains unscathed  with three straight wins, in fact  the team has won  36 games in a row, at least as of this writing, De La Salle University is at 2-1, Adamson University, with a new  coach, is at 2-2, Ateneo de Manila  is next at 1-2, same as FEU and UST and UP which hugs the cellar with four straight losses.
When I watched at MOA the first time, with UE playing UP, it was the first game and  aside from  the small group of parents watching their kids play, or not play, and  the players who would  be playing  in the next game, the cavernous arena was practically empty of people, though as far as  these  young basketball players are concerned, particularly  the rookies and sophomores,  just the fact that they are playing  in  a world class facilty like the Arena, it is enough   for them.
Last Sunday, I went  in turn to Araneta with UE playing FEU, it was the same story, though La Salle which played NU in the first game, had more team supporters and even a cheering squad, to no avail as they lost to the Lady Bulldogs, 59-72 while the Lady Warriors posted its third staright win after an opening day loss  by 4 points to the Lady Bulldogs, earlier, UE blasted UST by 17 points, beat UP by 18, and last Sunday, struggled in the first three and a half quarters before  getting its act together and pulled off a 55-45 victory over FEU.
And coach Ai was still not happy  with the way her players played as she was very emphatic about telling them  that  after three years, the players can do better than the way they played, I agree because I have seen this team 4 years ago and it  was a real struggle for the coaching staff as the players’ skills’ level was still  on the low side, but now it is a different story.
I have not seen all the teams play but offhand,  the battle would be for the other three Final 4 slots as I would already concede one slot  to NU, behind national player April Bernardino, the reigning MVP of the league and   might end up duplicating her feat this season. The  teams that should be contenders would be UE, even if it lost Mythical Five member last year Cherry Ano-os for disciplinary reason, another reason why I admire coach Ai, Ano-0s has transferred to NU   but needs to meet residency requirements to play,  De La Salle even with the graduation of another Mythical Five member Ara Abaca, now with the  national team Adamson, a scrappy  squad I would  say, and Ateneo de Manila though its main player, Danica Jose has also graduated. UST lost its center and Mythical Five member Maica Cortes to graduation and will need time to develop  anew its core group of players,, same with FEU, and more so with UP.
The Lady Warriors play  Ateneo  for its next game, the same team  that prevented them from a podium finish  last year and  so I know that would serve as a big motivation for the team, now led  by former rookie of the year Lovejoy Sto. Domingo, Eunique Chan, and Ruth Tacula, a player I would remember as  the one who wanted to return home to the province after just a few days after  being in Manila four years ago.
I just wish that women’s basketball gets its share of write-ups and stories, and in the same breath, I wish our Perlas team the best of luck   as  it plays in Malacca, Malaysia in the SEABA, and I am happy too that my favorite  female player Chack Cabinbin made it to the roster to SEABA, this  girl can really play basketball, believe me and she showed  that when she played for coach Ai in Lyceum.
And even as  I am writing this, the night before, I got an update  from colleague Rey Joble who is covering  the SEABA  tournament about  our first game  results there, winning over Singapore and guess who top scored for  Perlas, none other than Chack, in fact I messaged her  that  after this, she  would understand better why  Ai and I  had been pushing her to play for the national team, now  she does. Our next game against Laos should be  a walk over with Malaysia and Thailand as the  two teams  that can match up with us.
And if we win the gold  in Malaysia, I hope it spurs women’s basketball here.
By the way, I just would like to call the attention of one of the assistant coaches of FEU during that UE-FEU game, I will not  name him  though I am sure he would know  and so with other people who know him, he was giving specific instruction to one of  the players to  intentionally elbow her opponent and that he would take responsibility for it.
Now mind you, I do not know the guy and he does not know me, but what I know is the sports is supposed to teach  the proper values to young athletes and schools in particular, should bear this responsibility more than any one else and I  do not think telling  a player to intentionally hit  another player on the court is something that should be taught to players, play tough defense, yes, no  problem, but hitting others  with full intention, now that is another story altogether.
I know for a fact that there was a UAAP school that replaced its coach in the junior division when the same thing happened and I agree that schools should draw the line  in such matters of instilling discipline on both players and coaches.