Hate to admit it, but this writer was perhaps among the many who almost surrendered when the Green Archers were down 21 in the second period of game 2. The way Ateneo was shooting the lights out and given that Ricci already had 4 personal fouls in the first half, it was hard to imagine how the team would still be able to come back. And boy was I wrong. Being the defending champions, they never gave up and they eventually prevailed.
Now the stage is set for a winner-take-all game 3 tomorrow. After that hard-fought, come-from-behind win, the momentum is surely with La Salle but of course, expect the Blue Eagles to regroup and give it their all in this final match of the season. The series has been indeed physical and dramatic and with both squads just a win away from clinching the championship trophy, the intensity will be at a much higher level.
Playing catch-up ball after consistently falling behind has been the story for the Green Archers in all their four games this season against Ateneo. With no more margin for error, they should have to find their rhythm early and sustain it throughout the match. There should be no let up on the Blue Eagles for even one bit. In their comeback trail in game 2, the team was able to push the tempo and play faster basketball. This is where they excel and as a result, they prevented Ateneo, known for their deliberate style, to execute their well-designed plays and forced them to make a lot of hurried shots. We hope to see them establish their pace right from the start.
On defense, the Archers started game 2 with their usual trapping and double-teaming which unfortunately allowed the Ateneo shooters to be free on most occasions. They managed to adjust and by playing straight-up, man-to-man, the Blue Eagles struggled to score from the perimeter. It would be probably best to stick with the defensive scheme that works. Ateneo will live and die with their outside shots.
Finally, the Green Archers need to remain composed. They need to play smart especially on defense. We don’t know how tight the referees will call this game but we cannot afford again to be in a situation where in our key players are saddled with early foul trouble. Ben needs to once again exert his might inside and for Ricci not to force things and let his game come to him. Also, we hope to see other players such as Andrei and Prince to contribute on the scoring end. When everyone clicks, they are very difficult to beat.
Overall, the key to this game is to start strong, and finish stronger. The Green Archers are clearly the more talented team and it’s time that they go out there and prove that they can dominate their rivals. It’s time to blow them out.
Out team has gone through a lot this season which makes winning the championship so much sweeter. We can only hope that once the final buzzer sounds tomorrow, it will be us celebrating.