Thoughts on La Salle’s first preseason game

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You could not blame the Green Archers if they display a little swagger entering another collegiate basketball season. Championships in the UAAP and Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) certainly prove that La Salle is the best college team during 2013. Add the fact that the team only lost LA Revilla to graduation and you have the DLSU community salivating for a Green Dynasty.

The team brought 18 players for the 2014 Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup. The squad is composed of 12 holdovers from the UAAP Season 76 title winning squad, one veteran returnee, YutienAndrada and five promising rookies.

Save for the third quarter, DLSUdisplayed championship form beating University of the East (UE), 69-62 to notch their first win in Group A action.

UE got off to a quick start with sophomore Mark Olayon nailing three quick baskets for a 2-7 lead. It was all downhill for the Recto-based squad still adjusting to a new coach and a new system. Aside from getting in the penalty early at the 5:40 mark, three 24-second shot clock violations signalled that the team was still getting used to the motion offense of new coach and former DLSU head Derrick Pumaren.

The Warriors also had a big hole in the middle as starting center Charles Mammie was benched by Pumaren the whole game. Arnold Van Opstal capitalized and made his presence felt in the paint, displaying an array of short jumpers, hook shots and deft touch from the stripe. The 2013 UAAP Most Improved Player finished with 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and a block while converting 4 of 5 free throws.

The offense was clicking in the first quarter with all five La Salle starters scoring at least two points while playing excellent defence to hold UE to ten points, thanks to a 6:49 long scoreless stretch. The Green Archers ended the quarter with a 13-3 run to lead, 20-10.

You can’t blame DLSU head coach Juno Sauler for testing his second unit and rookies to start the second quarter. This is being the preseason, the unit that started the second period consisted of rookies Prince Rivero, Julian Sargent and Abu Tratter together with Matt Salem and Kib Montalbo.

Despite showing high energy, La Salle could only manage to score six points in the first eight minutes while also failing to stop UE’s RoiSumang who exploded for 11 points in the quarter. A layup by Sumang with 0:55 left trimmed the Green Archers’ once mighty lead to two, 30-28.

The Red Warriors thoroughly outplayed DLSU in the third frame. UE managed to outscore the Green and White squad, 17-25 thanks to their energy and effort. Airballedjumpshots in the first half were hitting their mark, while import Moustapha Arafat was a match-up problem.

It would be interesting to see how coaches and playershandle the imports of UE in Season 77 with Mammie a force in the middle and Arafat the long, athletic and intimidating presence.

Trailing by four, 49-53 entering the last period, Van Opstal, Almond Vosotros and JeronTeng combined for 15 of the Archer’s 20 fourth quarter points. You could say that what the Archers lacked in imported players, they more than made up in championship experience and poise. With La Salle protecting a slim one point lead, 63-62 with less than a minute to go, AVO scored on a put-back to stretch the lead to three then blocked Sumang’s attempt on the next possession. Vosotros calmly converted four straight foul shot for the final score.

It’s those kinds of clutch plays that give the Green and White gallery confidence for the upcoming UAAP season.

Ultimately this La Salle-UE preseason matchup is just a possible preview of the squads that will go to battle in the UAAP three months from now. La Salle was also missing mythical five member Jason Perkins (bruised left knee) while the Red Warriors can only get better with more practice time.

It is refreshing to see Andrada back, healthy and still providing high IQ plays inside the paint. Rivero, the NCAA juniors MVP had a difficult time adjusting from being a frontcourt player in high school to a wing player in the seniors division. But his lack of quickness may be compensated if he takes advantage of his size to post up opposing wing players.

You can look at UE as proof that the preseason leagues hardly ever serve as a proper gauge for the coming UAAP season. The Red Warriors are the defending champions of this league but ended with a 7-7 record and finished in sixth place during Season 76. In fact seven of the eight preseason champions never won the UAAP championship. The only exception?De La Salle University in 2007.

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