The De La Salle Green Archers will try to win its 6th straight game as they go up against the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. After a 0-2 start, the Archers found their groove during the middle part of the first round. La Salle finished the first round with a strong 5-2 record. That is good enough for a triple-tie for second place, and just a game behind first place. Ateneo has been a surprise this year, as the Eagles soared for a 6-1 record to end the first round on top. ADMU defeated DLSU 97-86 during the first round, and the Archers would love to win the second round matchup against their first round tormentors. A win against the Eagles will give the Archers a share of first place, definitely a good way to start the second round of the season.
Keys to the Game:
Defend the perimeter
The Eagles had a field day during the first round matchup against the Archers, shooting, and making, threes at will. Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal and Arvin Tolentino rained threes during that fateful Sunday morning/lunch-time as the lead of the Eagles ballooned during the fourth quarter. La Salle had a hard time guarding the perimeter during some of its games in the first round, evident in its losses against FEU and Ateneo where the shooters of our opponents went nuts. La Salle struggled at times when it used a zone defense this season, so a man-to-man defense might be used against the Eagles this time around. With a thinner rotation thanks to several injuries to the other players, conditioning is the key and the remaining healthy Archers should be ready to play more minutes than usual.
Make it rain from downtown!
La Salle has been struggling so far from the three-point range this season, making just 27/122 three-point shots for only 22.1%, just 6th in the league in three-point percentage. During the first 7 games, Almond Vosotros shot 12/45 from the three-point area. He struggled during the first few games of the first round before making some three-point shots during garbage time against UP. Matt Salem has yet to hit a three this season. Robert Bolick was just 1/14 from downtown during the first round. Hopefully, La Salle can shoot better from the perimeter during the second round. DLSU just shot 6/28 from the three-point region during the first round match against Ateneo, while the Eagles shot 10/27 from that region during that game. With Arnold Van Opstal and Norbert Torres out for the game this Sunday, La Salle needs its three-point shooting more than ever. Aside from Vosotros, Jason Perkins and Julian Sargent can also hit the three-point shot, and hopefully our outside shots will fall in the absence of some of our post presence.
Ateneo outrebounded a much taller DLSU squad, 51-50 during the first round. And we had our twin towers during that game. With the twin towers out, gang(green)-rebounding is the key. We still have Jason Perkins, one of the best rebounders in the league. Hopefully, Hefty Lefty can have a huge rebounding game against the Eagles this weekend. Rookie Abu Tratter and veteran Yutien Andrada will be called upon to deliver the boards. And don’t be surprised to see Jeron Teng and Prince Rivero play the power forward position from time to time during this game to make up for the absence of our big guys.
There were times during the first round that the Archers turned the ball over way too many times, specifically during the infamous UE game. With their strong first round showing and with the depleted line-up of the Archers, Ateneo is considered the favorite for this game, so La Salle can’t afford to give a lot of extra possessions to the Blue Eagles. With all three of our point guards, Thomas Torres, Kib Montalbo and Terrence Muste, out for this game, it’s up to Almond Vosotros, rookie Julian Sargent, Robert Bolick and even Jeron Teng to handle the ball for the Green and White. Don’t be surprised, in a cruel twist of irony, if the Eagles will try to press the Archers from time to time in hopes of getting fast break opportunities.
Stop the other Eagles
Kiefer Ravena is the runaway favorite to win the MVP this season. He will get his numbers. If we can limit him to just around 16 points, that would be good enough for me! The key is to stop his supporting cast. Von Pessumal, Arvin Tolentino and Fonzo Gotaldera all stepped up for the Eagles during the first round game against the Archers. If the Archers can stop the supporting cast of the Eagles, like maybe just one of them outside of Kiefer will score in double-digits, and the other key players will just score in the 7-point range, then the Archers would be in good shape this Sunday.
Last year, we ended the first round with a 3-4 mark. This year, we improved on that with a solid 5-2 record. The story for most of the first round was it’s a 6-way race to the Final Four. After the first round, some would say that the top 4 teams already got one foot inside the Final Four bus, with UE and UST hoping for a minor miracle to crash the party. As Coach Juno Sauler also stresses, we take it one game at a time, one possession at a time, and the key is to constantly improve from day-to-day. Hopefully, the Archers can build from the strong first round showing and continue to build momentum during the second round as they try to get the coveted twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.