MANILA, Philippines – Alvin Pasaol remains their superstar, but University of the East (UE) showed on Sunday that they were far from a one-man team.
In their first win of the UAAP Season 81 tournament, several Red Warriors had their shining moments in a stunning 90-65 triumph over Far Eastern University (FEU).
Sure, Pasaol still top-scored for the team with 25 points on top of 13 rebounds and 5 steals, but he did not have to do all the heavy lifting.
Skipper Jason Varilla knocked down 15 of his career-best 17 points in the first half, helping UE race to a quick start that FEU would never recover from. Wilson Bartolome, Mark Maloles, and Chris Conner all chipped in as well, with Maloles sparking the 18-2 run in the fourth quarter that proved to be the final blow for the Tamaraws.
And veteran point guard Philip Manalang was there to pull the strings, as he finished with 13 points and a career-best 12 assists.
"Nakita ko na nakaka-shoot si Jason, Mark Maloles," said Manalang after the game. "Siguro, sa four games namin 'yun ang hinahanap ko as a point guard eh, 'yung pumutok sila."
Prior to Sunday's game, UE had been shooting just 23.5% from beyond the arc. Against FEU, however, they converted 12 of 32 triples for a 37.5% clip. They shot a season-high 45.95% for the game.
"'Yung mga shooters ko, noong nag-start na pumutok sila, ang dali na mag-drive, and then pati 'yung big man ko, napapasahan ko na, lumuwag na 'yung depensa," explained Manalang.
Manalang, who averages 5.2 assists per game, never lost faith that their shooters will find their mark sooner or later in the season – and he was glad to see his confidence rewarded in UE's massive upset of the Tamaraws.
"Siyempre sobrang saya ako kasi 'yung tiwala ko sa kanila, sinuklian nila eh," said Manalang. "Before season pa lang, sinasabi ko na sa kanila… kapag nakaka-shoot na kayo, siyempre luluwag na 'yung depensa eh."
For Manalang, their explosive performance against FEU proved that they are not just an Alvin Pasaol squad – something that he has been stressing to his teammates for a while now.
"'Yun 'yung isa pang sinasabi ko sa kanila, na huwag niyong hayaan na sabihin ng mga tao na Alvin Pasaol team lang 'to," he said.
"Sabi ko, andiyan kayo, Jason Varilla, Mark Maloles, Chris Conner. Parang sabi ko, team tayo dito," he added. "Hindi naman pwedeng puro si Alvin, 'di pwedeng puro si Alvin lang."
"Sabi ko napapagod din 'yan. Paano pag wala siya? Kanino tayo aasa? Kailangan namin kayo, kailangan ko kayo."
After showing what they are capable of, Manalang wants his teammates to now play more consistently, and contribute what they can do the team, no matter how small.
"Sabi ko, team tayo dito eh, team tayo, pamilya tayo so kailangan natin bawat isa," said the point guard.
"Maliit na minuto man 'yan, sabi ko mag-contribute kayo," he added. "Kahit bench kayo, 'yung mga maliliit na bagay. Cheer niyo lang mga teammates niyo. 'Pag nada-down sila, andyan pa rin kayo sa likod ng mga teammates niyo."
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