For normal sports fans, this is known as the virtual best of three series. But come to think of it, there is still much, much of a difference when your mentality is that “I have a twice to beat advantage over you.” Players at this age playing in the UAAP pressure cooker is no joke so having the right mental framework going into the playoffs is just important, maybe even higher facing a tough exam in school. Personally, the game tomorrow will be big not just because La Salle is facing a tough team in FEU, but also this will be a big morale boosting win for the Green Archers at this stage of the tournament.
I guess all the X’s and O’s have been discussed thoroughly already in the past two pre-game write ups for these two teams back in the elimination round and personally, I do not see major adjustments coming because primarily, each team will still play based on their strengths. For La Salle, it is to dominate inside the paint over their relatively smaller, but quicker FEU counterparts while for the Tamaraws, it is to use their speed and agility since they have possibly the best guard corps in the league and the soon-to-be-awarded elimination round MVP in Terrence Romeo in their disposal.
For tomorrow’s game, if there will be adjustments, it will be on the defensive end and on the mental aspect of these players. Personally, I consider FEU as the more veteran bunch as their main players Garcia, Romeo, and Tolomia are veterans in their own right in the UAAP and playing other pressure packed games in the D-League. For La Salle, this is the second straight year that the Archers are back in postseason action, this time, in a better position since they have the opportunity to get a twice to beat advantage unlike last year, they were on the losing end of the quotient, having to face FEU in an elimination-type match for the last spot in the final four.
Going back to that elimination match for the fourth and final spot in the final four in season 75, it will definitely be the fire that will fuel the Tamaraws in tomorrow’s match up. For sure, FEU wants to get back on the team that eliminated them last year after being the losing finalists in 2011. It will be a bigger pressure on Terrence Romeo as well since the soon to be named MVP will have to prove that the MVP award is not a fluke and he deserves to win that award. It will not be good if Romeo wins the best individual award but failing to lead his team in the playoffs.
Personally, I have to say that the pressure is indeed with FEU. Why? They are yet to solve La Salle this regular season. I still consider the first round defeat a loss within the Green Archers’ control so overall in two games in the eliminations. FEU, particularly coach Nash Racela has yet to device something to master the Green Archers after two elimination round games. Remember that La Salle is on a roll in the second round and has a better mental toughness more than any team in the tournament thus far so I wonder if the defeat last year to La Salle in the knockout game for the last spot in the final four plus Terrence Romeo’s MVP award will be enough to beat La Salle.
If La Salle plays this one right again mentally, more than anything else in the game, I am giving the Green Archers an advantage in this game. I am not saying that it will be a sure win but with La Salle’s form in the tournament, fortifying it with more mental toughness, this could be a game for La Salle’s favour. It will be big though for FEU’s bigs like Sencheu and Hargrove not to go into foul trouble because if they do, just like in the elimination round games, life will be difficult for the Tamaraws to match up with La Salle’s bigs inside the paint.
So far, the Green Archers’ biggest thorn in the FEU side is forward Mac Belo, who has been consistent in outworking La Salle in the two elimination round games. Mac’s energy and hustle keeps FEU at par with La Salle in the game but aside from him, nobody has stepped up from his teammates to help him. To the Green Archers’ credit, the defense on the FEU gunners was superb especially in the second round. The Archers rather allow the other Tamaraws to try and put points on the board rather than allowing Romeo, Garcia, and Tolomia to heat up in the game.
FEU has not tried double-teaming with full commitment all La Salle bigs whenever they get the ball inside the paint, instead, the Tamaraws resort to a zone defense to negate La Salle’s advantage inside but this will allow La Salle’s guards, especially Vosotros to heat up from the outside. Thomas Torres and LA Revilla can also stroke it from deep. Perkins, who is a big man, can also shoot from the outside; along with stretch forward Matt Salem. Heck, Jeron Teng can also convert if given the green light to shoot from the three. It will be interesting to see how La Salle will react once FEU resorts to double-teaming the big guys inside since FEU has quick, hybrid forwards to disrupt the offense.
Overall, tomorrow’s game will boil down more on who can cope up tougher in the pressure cooker. I guess not just in this game but for all the games in the playoffs, final four, and in the finals. I am just happy that the Green Archers are on the better end of their mental conditioning which started in the Adamson game in the second round until at the very present moment. I hope this will continue at the end of the season because this trait of the team is something that gives the Green Archers a strong competitive advantage in any match that they come into.
Of course, I am also hoping that the whole De La Salle community will be on full-force to support our beloved Green Archers as we continue our quest in search of the Holy Grail for the senior’s basketball division in five years. Our presence and support will definitely count a lot for our gladiators that will lay themselves out there on the court in honor and glory of De La Salle University against the equally tough, fierce, and competitive Tamaraws.
Note: Show your true colors tomorrow. If you are watching the game live, please Wear Green! Spread the word