Sunday will host Game 1 of the yearly Ateneo-La Salle UAAP men’s basketball festivities. A game wherein everyone on both sides suddenly has this clear-cut decision or choice: It is either you are my friend or you are my opponent, no if’s and no but’s. It has also become a “be seen” event, short of saying a showbiz thing because most personalities from both schools all of a sudden, gets converted into a basketball aficionado.
But more than anything, not just on the players, but also on the alumni and the students, this game is all about one thing: Representing your school well and at the end of the match, you should sing the school hymn first. In short, it is called school pride and bragging rights. No other thing can satisfy someone involved on either side but seeing his/her school having the higher score than the other and for a day, until the second round meeting at least, all the jeering and teasing authority belong to the winning school. It’s also a great excuse to light up all of your school flags with these best solar lights for flagpoles. Who doesn’t want their school flag lit for everyone to see?
It is difficult to discuss statistics going into this type of a game because everyone suddenly has this extra mojo to prove something and lift their school to a victory, something that the community will always cherish and be proud of. This is the time where simple people or a player on that aspect becomes a legendary folklore after Sunday, whether positively or negatively. It is just all about not losing to your bitter arch-rivals.
Most of the time, teams downplay it. You will hear them say, it is just a normal game on the calendar that we have to win. It is just another game that we have to play but deep inside, it is just another game that either side does not want and cannot afford to lose. Simple things get blown out of proportion when these two colossal institutions collide, on whatever arena or field it may be. It is always a big deal and it is always a reason for despair or a very reason for celebration.
King Eagle Kiefer Ravena is in an offensive slump at the moment. But remember the 2nd round encounter last season? Where he made one tough shot after another but ran out of gas in the end? He may have this kind of a game again on Sunday. But it remains to be seen if he will have more than enough in the tank to make tough shots until the 4th quarter. This season, Kiefer tends to pass the ball first in the opening stages of the game then takes most of the shots in the 2nd half.
La Salle will definitely prepare for this game with Ravena and streak-shooting Von Pessumal in focus on their scouting notes. La Salle’s wing guys Joshua Torralba, Julian Sargent, Jollo Go, and Andrei Caracut will be very busy on Sunday covering Ateneo’s primary scorers. It will be seen also if Sunday will be rookie Andrew Langston’s debut game since he is also another body that the Green Archers can use to defend Ravena and Pessumal.
On offense, the question for the Green Archers is aside from Teng and Caracut, who else will be the 3rd scorer that will help ease the offensive load for the Taft-based squad? Jason Perkins has been missing in action offensively in these past few games and it will be huge if he suddenly finds his scoring groove once again on Sunday. Torres and Navarro hitting open buckets will also be a big help for the Green Archers if they want to put points on the board on Sunday. Normally they get these looks from the perimeter but another question is, can they convert on those?
On defense, it will still be the same question as well for La Salle. Are they quick enough to rotate on the perimeter to not allow Ateneo to take open jumpers. The only constant known commodity from Katipunan to make those threes in Pessumal but you cannot also discount other players that may have a big day from deep once given opportunity. Remember during the UST game that Kyle Suarez was seldom-used before having a breakout game last Wednesday. The Green Archers may see this scenario haunting them once if they will allow Ateneo to get good looks from the perimeter and get their confidence going.
La Salle has more than enough front court bodies to match up with Ateneo’s and the Green Archers should not be afraid of closing out on Ateneo’s shooters and let the big guys bang bodies inside for the rebound and possibly use it for transition baskets since the Green Archers can also run and finish the break. If nothing is going on half court sets, always compensate it by playing tough defense and score easy baskets on the break. Quicker teams relatively should play the passing lanes very well and disrupt the opponent’s offense.
Another thing that is worth noting is La Salle’s press break. Ateneo also loves to do full-court pressure defense from time to time and it will be important for the Green Archers not to lose composure and give away turnovers once Ateneo employs their full court pressure defense. Ateneo so far likes to employ their 2-2-1 full court zone pressure defense but it is also a question if the Blue Eagles have additional tricks up in their sleeves to throw another variation of a full court press knowing La Salle is susceptible in giving away the ball on that regard.
When will La Salle’s free throw woes stop? La Salle supporters have arrived at a point to accept the fact that the Green Archers will shot poorly from the charity stripe every game, which hurts the team big time since it has been the case that converting half of their missed free throws would have turned the game into another direction. This is also another missed opportunity that cannot be taken for granted, especially in defeats.
These are just some of the talking points coming into this rivalry game on Sunday. For sure, coaches of both teams will prepare really hard to finish the first round of eliminations on a high note and not to set this season as a two-horse race between FEU and UST. One thing is for sure, more than the physical and the x and o preparation, it is most important to put focus on the mental aspect of the game. In a game of quick momentum shifts such as what has been shown so far this season, it is very important for teams to be mentally tough to sustain momentum and overcome adversities during the game.
In a game of this magnitude, facing your rivals, mental toughness can equate to school pride. It is an intangible thing but can work wonders come Sunday to bring glory to each respective institution and community.
Good luck to both squads and looking forward to an entertaining and exciting match-up on Sunday.
Green, White, Fight
Never Shall We Fail