Stopping Jeron Teng is easier said than done. Just ask Pido Jarencio and the rest of the UST Growling Tigers.
More than proving he deserved being recognized as player of the year in this year’s Collegiate Basketball Awards, maybe it was a recent headline quoting SWU Coach Yayoy Alcoseba as saying his main strategy in trying to beat the Green Archers is to stop Jeron Teng that added fire to the latter’s relentless offensive attack from the opening tip, ending up with 18 points in a game where the final score is a bit misleading in how lopsided Game 1 of the PCCL finals really was.
Or maybe, as the La Sallian faithful know very well by now, it was just another day in the office for the King Archer.
Opening the game with their usual aggressive team defense, disciplined offense off good floor spacing and gang rebounding which dictated the tempo of the entire game, a 13-4 lead 7 minutes into the first quarter turned into a 21-8 lead after ten minutes of play, a 34-21 lead at halftime, and reached high of 22, at 54-32 in the third quarter.
Not that the Cobras didn’t put up a fight, fueled by their highly improbable win over the Green Archers a week earlier to open the final four round, but every SWU run was forcefully answered by La Salle. Timely jumpers by Luigi Dela Paz, and Gabby Reyes, Norbert Torres holding his own down low, Robert Bollick once again proving why he deserves to be in the rotation even down the stretch, and of course Thomas Torres starting his campaign to ease our separation anxiety over LA Revilla’s departure for the pro leagues with a bang.
Aside from limiting ex-Archer Mac Tallo to 6 points, Thomas Torres not only started to show that in his own way he can break sudden full court presses by SWU with his speed and controlled passing, but that he can also generate his own offense by brazenly driving to the basket, heart on sleeve, capped off by a three- point play with just a little over a minute left in the game to push La Salle’s lead back up to 12 after a final run by the Cobras.
It was highly evident that Coach Juno Sauler prepared well for this game (not that this should still take us by surprise at this point), preventing SWU’s other scorers like Monbert Arong, Adams Mohammed and Melvin Holper from exploding by taking away their sweet spots and disrupting their offensive rhythm with good ol’ solid defense.
But expect Coach Alcoseba and his boys to come out in Game 2, for their sake, with a new game plan, or at the very least turn the game into a dogfight by leaving it all on the court to make their hometown proud and extend their stay in Manila for just a few more days.
SWU’s final run midway through the fourth quarter, partly due to turnovers and largely anchored on the heady post play of Landry Sanjo, may once again pose problems for La Salle as Arnold Van Opstal has yet to regain his old form, resulting in the Green Archers’ post play not proving to be as dominant as we all know it can be– commanding double teams which results in more fluid ball rotation with an offense that starts from the post. This also makes it more difficult for Jason Perkins to get into his offensive rhythm, having to carry most of the scoring load in the paint during half court sets.
Coupled with injuries to Almond Vosotros and Kib Montalbo, Game 2 ought to be a knockout game worth its salt. But here’s a question I have posed to opposing coaches and teams time and again over the course of the recent UAAP men’s basketball tournament: Who exactly do you need to stop on this La Salle team?
Because even as the Green Archers have proven in the UAAP, especially during that second round sweep, that there are at least a handful of players that can carry the scoring load for this La Salle team, and that the individual scoring averages was one of the league’s most well balanced, with the emergence of players like Bollick, Salem, Reyes and the eminent return to form of Dela Paz, to beat the Green Archers you have to stop the entire team.
Though SWU can always take pride in beating the UAAP champions in that sweltering game last week, all of us, including the Green Archers themselves have shrugged and moved on from that. And I will go out on a limb and say that more than Holper’s sudden eruption from three point range in overtime, La Salle beat itself that day.
Teng and Vostros’s 1-10 and 2-10 shooting respectively, as well the inefficient floor spacing, lack of aggressiveness and unforced turnovers, was all due to La Salle just playing a bit too relaxed for comfort more than anything.
But the fire, the energy the aggressiveness, the disciplined offense and defense, the refusal to lose, and the championship heart and pride are all back. And then some. And as I’ve said recently, this isn’t even Coach Juno Sauler’s unit at its best yet. Dare I say, not even half of its potential. It’s a good half a year or so before the next UAAP basketball season will begin, but I am already raring to go.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves, there’s still a matter of winning a national championship at hand. National Champions. It really does have a nice ring to it. Shall we, then?
DLSU (64) – Teng 18, T. Torres 15, N. Torres 10, Reyes 9, Bolick 5, Perkins 4, Dela Paz 3, Vosotros 0, Montalbo 0, Salem 0, Van Opstal 0, Tampus 0
SWU (54) – Sanjo 16, Arong 11, Goloran 7, Mohammed 6, Tallo 6, Bregondo 4, Siewe 2, Bautista 2, Holper 0
Quarter scoring: 21-8, 34-21, 54-32, 64-54