The Archers were closing in.
Riding a 12-0 run, DLSZ was poised to turn a 15-point deficit into a lead before the end of the first half. And with NU alpha dog Rhayyan Amsali shackled to the bench due to foul trouble, the Bullpups were desperately in need of an answer. Any kind of answer.
Finally, Terrence Fortea knocked down a triple to stop the bleeding. Then another. Followed by a slick slash and kick to his roll man. Which he then capped off with a lay-up after a steal. For two minutes, this lanky, unassuming guard from off the bench was a boy possessed. The Archers would never recover.
Fortea, on the other hand, seems to be turning the corner. He would finish Wednesday’s game with 20 points, going 5 for 9 from beyond the arc. The Saturday prior, he finished with 18 points and 4 3s. This two-game outburst has propelled Terrence to 8th in the league in scoring (13.9 PPG) and perhaps more interestingly, the leading scorer of the league’s #1 ranked offense.
To put things simply, this kid can get buckets.
And that’s just what the Bullpups need if they’re to survive the fatal 4-way that’s ahead of them. Standing in the way of their fourth title in eight years are the defending champs, the team with the league’s runaway MVP, and a team that’s amassed more talent than the Monstars.
Currently, NU is sitting pretty at second place with a record of 7-2 (though let’s be real—they’re 8-1. The other blemish on their record came from a 107-69 shellacking of the powerless UE Junior Warriors, which was then forfeited for fielding an ineligible player). A product of a system instilled by new Head Coach Goldwyn Monteverde characterized by high-pressure defense, which forces the most steals and points off of turnovers per game, and the most potent and efficient offense in the league.
Rhayyan Amsali has been impressive, leading the charge for the Bullpups. But his game has always been that of a playmaking big—forcing the defense to gravitate towards him then creating for others, which is what makes Fortea the perfect running mate. Nine games in, the Batang Gilas vet has proven to be an elite shooter who can space the floor, and when he’s feeling it, draw the double-team from behind the 3-point line. Which is interesting considering how unorthodox his form is.
Like a cowboy, Fortea is a quick release set shooter who hoists from the hip, making it that much easier to contest than a traditional jump shot. It hasn’t seemed to be a problem so far though, as Terrence ranks second in 3-pointers made (28) and 3-point percentage (a scintillating 45.9%).
It’s tempting to imagine what Terrence could do if he was given the green light to chuck it whenever he was feeling it (you know, like that other guy named Terrence, who one time went 34 for 64 to score 83 points? Ridiculous), but I don’t think that’s his game. Unlike his namesake, Fortea is extremely active on defense, fronting point guards before they even reach half-court and lunging for steals. The kid has an impressive motor, and he’s definitely played his part to create NU’s elite defense. He’s also nowhere near as selfish, averaging a respectable 3.4 assists per game. Then again, is anybody?
At just 16 years old, it’s intriguing to wonder if Fortea’s trajectory will be as smooth as his jimmy. What would happen if he were tossed the keys to the offense? Or if he grew six inches over the summer? He has all the time in the world to make himself into the ultimate 3 and D guy. Ain’t it fun to peer into the future? But for now, I’m gonna sit in the present and watch this kid do what he’s always done—shoot his shot.
This weekend, Terrence Fortea and Rhayyan Amsali face off against MVP Frontrunner CJ Cansino of the UST Tiger Cubs at the Fil-Oil Arena. Strap in for that one.