Yes I know, some of you may relate to it as a title of a song but for me, this best describes the Green Archers at the moment. A defeat tomorrow will have them removed out of the number four spot for the time being (depending on the result of the NU-UP game) while a victory will help them boost their chances for a Final Four spot with two games left in the elimination round (UP and FEU). Personally, more than the standings and the records, it is a must win game, simply because the boys are facing the blue squad from Katipunan.
The Blue Eagles are already secured of a playoff for a Final Four spot so definitely, they will also go all-out tomorrow for a crucial victory to finally stamp their place in the post season. Extra push and motivation will also be present for the blue and white camp as it will be the final Ateneo-La Salle game for Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal, and coach Bo Perasol, whom all of them would definitely want to get a win in their last collegiate rivalry game.
For me, what will propel the arrows to fly for the green and white in tomorrow’s game will be their defense. Team defense will be important once again if the Green Archers want to get their sixth win of the season. Unfortunately, the numbers are not on the Green Archers’ favor on the defensive category. The Green Archers are seventh in total points allowed with 74.2 points per game, seventh also in perimeter points allowed with 22.5 points per game, and sixth in inside points allowed with 31.6 points per game.
Coming from a previous system wherein defense is the number one priority, it pains for me to see this team struggling on the defensive end this season. Some are saying that the defensive struggles come from the team’s lack of ceiling but personally, it is much quicker to rotate defensively and disrupt passing lanes if a team is considered to be a small one because what they give up on height, definitely, they can compensate with speed and quickness.
Against a team that thrives on ball rotation (the Blue Eagles are currently second in the league in assists with an average of 16 per game), the defensive game plan should focus on making Ateneo a one-on-one team. Just like in the first round meeting, Kiefer Ravena threw a lot of bricks coming off the dribble and this will favor the Green Archers tomorrow if this will be the case once again. But more importantly, the Green Archers should adjust defensively on their help defense and rotation as Jerie Pingoy was able to weave this way around the La Salle defense the last time around finding Ateneo’s big men inside the paint for easy baskets.
Another defensive adjustment also that can be made is on Ateneo’s off the ball screen on Von Pessumal that can possibly translate to a handoff pick and roll, pick and pop, or a catch and shoot situation. The Blue Eagles love to run this play simple because a lot of options cam emanate from this play depending on how the defense reacts so if the Blue Eagles can be limited on this option, it will also be big for the Green Archers and possibly, can be a key contributor in getting a win tomorrow.
Last two defensive numbers that I would like to stress out are the turnover points allowed and fastbreak points allowed. The Green Archers are dead last in turnover points allowed category giving away 15.2 points per game. It means that opposing teams are pouncing on La Salle’s turnovers and milking points out of it. It also means that the Green Archers should do a better job of getting back on defense once they turn the ball over so that opponents cannot score easy transition baskets.
Speaking of transition baskets, the Green Archers are sixth in the fastbreak points allowed category, giving up 10 fastbreak points per game. Of course, aside from improving on their transition defense, it will be way better for the Green Archers to take care of the basketball so that there will be no attempt whatsoever on La Salle’s opponents to make an attempt to score on the break. The Green Archers at the moment are giving away 19 turnovers per game. Limiting turnovers and making good decisions on the ball will certainly help the Green Archers’ cause tomorrow.
I will not discuss further things on offense as basically we have seen how the Green Archers run their offense after eleven games and I will reiterate it, if the Green Archers can improve defensively on these last three games, this will definitely help their cause in getting a Final Four spot. Defense is an area wherein the Green Archers have struggled so far this season and even if the perimeter game will not go that well, if La Salle’s defense will click on these last three games, it will indeed put the team in a perfect position to win games every time.
It will still be a big game for both teams tomorrow simply because it is a mere fact that both schools do not want to lose to each other. I hope this will be more than enough fuel for the team to play aggressively on both ends of the floor and raise the bar knowing what is in store for tomorrow’s game. Three more games boys in the elimination round. Put the pedal to the metal. It is almost there. Give it all on the floor and let the result speak for itself.