Sunday, October 3, 2010

UAAP Season 73 Finals: Most Valuable Player

UAAP Season 73 Finals: Game 2, Ateneo Blue Eagles vs. FEU Tamaraws, 30 Sep 2010
[Photo credit: Diana Moraleda for Inboundpass.]
At last year's bonfire following the Blue Eagles' second straight UAAP basketball championship, Ateneo forward Ryan Buenafe declared, "Basta, alam ko next year, three-peat."

Those words were in the back of my mind throughout this season, but I didn't dare trot them out here or elsewhere. After all, sports history is littered with athletes who have been forced to eat crow after making similarly bold predictions. For every Joe Namath who said "We're gonna win the game. I guarantee it" before winning Super Bowl III, there's a Paul Pierce who lost Games 6 and 7 in Los Angeles after declaring “We ain’t coming back to LA” early in the 2010 NBA Finals.

But now, three days removed from Ateneo's thrilling Game 2 win and sweep of top-ranked FEU in the best-of-three Finals, and hours before the bonfire celebrating the Blue Eagles' third straight UAAP championship, it's amazing how prescient those words turned out to be. I'm not sure it was properly a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I do know that Buenafe made a promise and fulfilled it with his play. 

He was pedestrian in Game 1 of the Finals, a game that was over after the first quarter, but his Game 2 stats speak for themselves: 23 points (8-12 FG, 1-3 3PT, 6-10 FT), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 turnover in 24 minutes of action. Buenafe scored 10 of Ateneo's 13 points in the fourth quarter (FEU scored 12) on a variety of shots, none more cold-blooded or demoralizing than that dagger three for a 64-59 lead with 22.1 seconds left.

Here it is, only his third made three-pointer of the season out of 31 attempts, captured for posterity:

UAAP Season 73 Finals: Game 2, Ateneo Blue Eagles vs. FEU Tamaraws, 30 Sep 2010
[Photo credit: Joseph Nebrida for Inboundpass.]
On video:

Don't you just love that although he was going for fierce—popping his jersey after making the shot, holding the pose even as he was mobbed—it sure looked like Buenafe was about to cry?

I wonder what he'll tell the Ateneo community tonight.

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