The De La Salle Green Archers passed thru the Far Eastern University Tamaraws to barge into the men’s basketball finals of the UAAP Season 71 back in 2008. It was also the same virtual best-of-three pattern that gave Jvee Casio a UAAP finals appearance before riding into the sunset for the Green Archers and lacing up his sneakers on for Smart-Gilas.
La Salle has one foot into the finals door after winning last Saturday’s playoff for the twice to beat advantage and the number two ranking at the end of the elimination round. With La Salle’s mental framework at the moment, I do not think they are in the motion to slow down for a little bit. Yes, there are still cranks both on offense and defense for the Green Archers but what is important is that the team never fails to find ways to win ball games.
In an ultra-competitive season such as this one in Season 76, after all the talent has gone maybe due to fatigue, the only thing that a team or a player can handle on is his will to succeed and perform better, do the little things that count in order to beat the opponent and finally win the game. These were the things that the Green Archers were successful in doing so in their 8-game winning run.
Almost all possible scenarios were presented like coming from behind to win a game, managing a big lead, and sticking close until the end of the game, and the Green Archers came out as winners in every possible scenario presented at them. It may be easy to say that the team needs to do this three more times, isn’t it to win the big prize? The problem is the Tamaraws are also looking to do the same tomorrow to the Green Archers.
Why would I say so? FEU is in a desperate position tomorrow to win the game to force a rubber match on Saturday. They have grizzled veterans desperate to prove that they are not just individualistic players but can carry a team as well to the Promised Land. They have the league MVP that has been criticized for all his playing career that he is a ball hog and thinks of individual statistics only.
This Final Four series will be a perfect time for these FEU individual greats to strut out their stuff to prove everyone otherwise. Remember that it is always dangerous to fend off a desperate team playing without pressure (since FEU holds the lower seed). So I will say this again that the game tomorrow will boil down not just in executing strategies on the court but also playing who wants it more to win the ball game.
As far as adjustments go, I do not know how FEU will adjust defensively anymore to La Salle. In three games so far, the Green Archers have gotten the Tamaraws’ number when FEU is employing man-to-man defense. I do not know if FEU plans to play zone defense tomorrow all-game long but we will see how Coach Nash Racela will do something new defensively against the Green Archers.
If the Green Archers will be flawless in its execution on offense against the zone defense, it will definitely help out a lot in tomorrow’s game because it will force FEU to play man-to-man defense once again against La Salle, in which La Salle has been good in taking advantage of their height forcing FEU to miss out in their defensive rotations, giving the Green Archers wide-open and good looks from the outside.
Defensively, if the Green Archers will continue giving Terrence, RR, and Cris forced perimeter jumpers, almost half of the job is already done. But honestly, I am more wary on FEU role players such as Pogoy, Belo, and Mendoza, all of whom seem to play twice or thrice better than their normal games against La Salle. This is because since La Salle’s defense is focused on Romeo, Garcia, and Tolomia, it gives Pogoy, Belo, and Mendoza opportunities to take shots.
Last Saturday, Pogoy, Belo, and Mendoza shot for a combined 8/21 from the field which was good personally since I have my personal mindset of limiting FEU’s role players to force the Tamaraws to go back to their main gunners and continue to let them take forced shots. Aside from height advantage, one of FEU’s weaknesses is that they do not have a legitimate low post threat which forces the Green Archers to defend and double team inside the paint.
Most or bulk of Tamaraws’ points come from jumpers or drop passes inside the shaded lane so if La Salle does well on those categories, it helps out a lot in winning the ball game. There were moments that the Green Archers were still a little bit slow to challenge the outside shots of the Tamaraws and I am hoping that in tomorrow’s game, it will be a total lockdown defensively on those perimeter good looks from FEU.
A lot of talk was given about breaking down FEU’s 2-2-1 full court pressure defense last Saturday. Honestly, the turnovers caused from that pressure defense should not be blamed onto one player only. All five players in the court should be communicating in order to successfully execute the press break. For sure, Coach Juno has already planned something in case FEU will do this again. I will not be surprised if they do so tomorrow.
So far this season, whatever FEU did, La Salle was just able to do better. There are a lot of players stepping up and contributing to each team’s cause. Who would have thought that Revilla will have a monster game from the perimeter, hitting six threes in the game? We actually do not know who will be stepping up big tomorrow for each team, especially for La Salle, given that Almond is on his rough patch at the moment.
For FEU, it is a given that it will be Pogoy, Belo, and Mendoza. If the Tamaraws will get production from them, this will be a very, very difficult ball game and will give confidence to the main gunners to be more productive later on. It is not a secret but limiting FEU’s role players will definitely be the key if La Salle wants to punch the first UAAP men’s basketball finals ticket tomorrow afternoon.
I am having mixed emotions right now because I am very positive that we have a good match up against FEU and we can really beat them but the other side of me says that FEU still has this one final adjustment from them (aside from giving blows to our players every now and then, making Coach Allan challenge Belo in one instance) that could possibly allow them to get over the hump or bullying (as what Coach Nash is saying) FEU is getting from La Salle this season.
I hope the community will be able to support the boys tomorrow as they take another step closer in getting their hands to the championship. It will not be easy and the community’s support will surely help fire the team in getting that much important win.
One last note, please, do not use canned music during our alma mater hymn. We can sing it loud and proud, whether we win or lose the match.