Alfred Aroga gets the last laugh on Charles Mammie
MANILA, Philippines – Charles Mammie tried. Over and over again he ventured to use different methods as a way to get into the head of Alfred Aroga just moments before both guys were about to play the most important game of their college careers.
It had worked before during last year’s FilOil preseason tournament, in which Mammie’s antics got into the psyche of the younger and lesser-experienced Bulldog big man, who fell for his adversary’s ploy and was unable to perform his usual style of play. The result? NU lost, while UE used the victory as one of its launching pads to the championship.
On Saturday, September 20, with both squads dueling for a spot at the Final Four round on the line, Mammie thought it would work once again. And for a moment, it looked like it did. Just minutes after trash talking Aroga on the bench and giving intimidating stares, the UE big man exploded for the game’s first six points as he helped spearhead his club to a 9-0 lead. The red-dominant side of the Smart Araneta Coliseum was sent into a ruckus, while the underwhelmed Bulldogs supporters sulked on their seats.
Another guy on his seat was Aroga, who committed two early fouls and had to watch from the bench as Mammie looked dominant. But thankfully for the Cameroonian rookie, his teammates picked up the slack and even took the lead before his re-entry to the game. He wound up with just seven points. But two of those turned out to be the most important of his team’s season.
In the dying seconds of the game with the contest tied at 49, Mammie left a wide-open Aroga underneath the rim off a time-out but recovered just in time to avoid the basket. However, a foul was called, setting up the more pressure-packed moment the NU rookie has had to face in his career.
Aroga faced the prospect of being either the hero or the goat, and his sub-par free throw shooting average wasn’t exactly a confidence-booster. NU fans all over the coliseum held their breaths in unison, likewise for those supporting UE, who were hoping for a miss or two. Mammie tried to distract his rival once again, but Aroga’s eyes were fixated on the rim. Just remember the mechanics, he told himself.
“I was so calm,” Aroga shared about his game-sealing free throws after the game. “And I was like, ‘Okay, Alfred… every time you’re taking free throws, you make one, you lose one. This time try to be focused.’ Cause the crowd of UE was incredible. So I was just really, really focused on the free throws.”
A few second later, the score read 51-49. Both shots went in, sinking to the bottom of the net. NU needed just one more stop on defense. And they got it, as Bong Galanza’s 3-pointer clanked off the rim. The game was over.
What happened after was ecstasy. Bulldogs funs hugged each other. The floor of The Big Dome was splattered by the tears of the team’s players. Aroga went to the bench and hugged his head coach in what was a very emotional episode. They were Final Four-bound.
“My coach always tells me, ‘It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.’ So, I’m so happy I did the two free throws and we’re lucky we had the game.”
And what made the victory even sweeter was that it came at the expense of Mammie, who had only two markers the rest of the way after his quick six-point outburst. Aroga beat Mammie, but not by playing the latter’s game. He stuck to his principles, and it rewarded him with a victory once the final buzzer rang.
“He wanted me to get into his game, and I imposed my game. I’m not just saying this cause I won today, but I just imposed my game,” the adamant big man announced.
After vanquishing his rival, Aroga decided to offer him some advice: play like a man.
“He has to play like a man. It’s physical, but he doesn’t have to act like [it’s] personal stuff. That’s not how we play basketball. I kept on telling him on the court, ‘Play like a man. Try to play like a man. Don’t try to, like, insult and do some crazy stuff.’”
“He doesn’t need that. He always tries to get into my head but he can’t do that anymore, cause here (he pointed to his head) I’m really tough now. He got to find something else to try to get into my head. “
Aroga opted not to specify what Mammie told him, and simply stated that, “I accept that he’s a tough player, but he doesn’t need his mouth to win games. He has to think twice now.”
At least for the present, Aroga doesn’t need to worry about Mammie anymore. As far as he’s concerned, that’s a problem that has been dealt with accordingly.
But more than that, the NU big man sent a warning clear and precise to those who have plans of following Mammie’s psychological and physical antics and implying it to Aroga
“Me, personally, I like when you insult me,” he said. “When you insult me, it gets me… it gets me better. And the way I’m going to respond to you is going hard on you, and try to make a basket, and stop you.”
“So I really appreciate players that insult me in the game. I really like that. It makes me better. They don’t know that. It makes me really better, so I like when they keep on insulting me.”
NU now has to deal with Ateneo, the team they’ve gone 4-0 against over the past two seasons. But in order for the Bulldogs to advance to the UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball finals, they have to beat the Blue Eagles – led by MVP Kiefer Ravena, Mythical 5 selection Chris Newsome, and Rookie of the Year Arvin Tolentino, among others – in two straight games. This season, Ateneo has yet to lose consecutive matchups.
“Ateneo is a great team, so we just have to do what we do best: stay focused, go hard on defense, execute, and I’m pretty sure that this game won’t be easy. Ateneo is a great team and they’re going to really prepare, so we need to stay focused and really stay humble,” shared Aroga.
“That’s the key: humble”
Being more humble is something Mammie might want to try more moving forward. Whether that takes place or not, what’s for sure is that Aroga has already solved the mind games of his University of the East adversary. And because of that, it’s the Bulldogs, and not the Red Warriors, that will make it to the Final Four.
Clearly, Alfred Aroga had the last laugh. - Rappler.com