in Basketball, GoArchers

The View From the Armchair: Game 6 vs UST

Just how do you describe the game vs the Tigers?

Trailing for most of the game, the Archers gutted out a [choose one or more from the adjectives below] 101-92 double overtime victory over the fighting UST Tigers.   (Choices: Amazing. Pulse pounding. Heart stopping. Exciting. Exhausting. Frustrating. Exhilarating. Encouraging).

The Archers started off strong, kept pace with the Tigers for a the first 19 minutes, endured a Tiger points explosion in the 3rd, to trail by 12 entering the 4th, but finished strong to come within 3 seconds of victory in regulation time. They endured a seesaw first overtime, leading then trailing with about 30 seconds to go before that season-defining Peejay Barua triple to extend the game further. In the second overtime, the Tigers were decisively tamed, their roar turning into a meek meow with only 2 points to show while the Archers connected for 9.

This was a day for the books. Probably the first time ever that the two scheduled games were decided in double overtime.

The Archer defense under attack

The UST Tigers came armed with a specific plan to attack the Archer pressure defense head-on. They played fast, loose, and risky, relying on one-on-one individual plays and long speculative throw-ins to try to score before the Archer defense could set up. UST tried to make it a game of sprints, using quick passes to get the ball upcourt for a secondary break. They also went at the Archer defenders from the perimeter, dribbling aggressively to get into the paint. And they weren’t shy about taking potshots from long range. The Tigers achieved some separation towards the end of the first half, when a momentary lapse of concentration allowed UST to enter halftime with an 8point advantage. They quickly stretched this to 17 by aggressively attacking the press as well as some timely sniping from the long court. The barrage lasted for 3 quarters, and with 10 minutes to go, the Archers looked like they were headed for another double digit loss.

Only a last gasp Arvie triple from the corner prevented a larger deficit at the end of the third. This was the highest point total allowed by the Archers this season, with still one quarter to go. And UST seemed to have found the solution to the heretofore stingy Archer defense.

But the Archers had other ideas. Arvie strung together 10 points spanning the 3rd and 4th quarters, and collaborated with Kish, Hyram, Bader, and Joshua in clamping down on the Tigers, limiting their high octane offense to 10 points while putting up 22 points. They also successfully held the high scoring Tiger duo of Ababou and Mirza after these two had carried the scoring load in the first half. However, the focus on the two allowed Camus, Teng, and Malixi to showcase their shooting ability, and the 3 new Tigers poured in 39 points to power UST in the 2nd half.

The press was particularly effective in forcing the Tigers to use up their shot clock just to bring the ball up into the front court. The trap did not yield that many turnovers, but because it ate up the 24 second clock, UST had to take some hurried attempts. The press also forced a few 5 second inbound violations from the Tigers.

The unrelenting green-and-white defense took its toll on the Tigers in the extension periods, limiting the Tigers to a solitary basket in the first minute of the 2nd extension, and blanking the tired Tigers the rest of the way.

The much-maligned veterans carry the team

This was a game where the La Salle veterans carried the torch for the green-and-white, ably assisted by prized rookie Arvie Bringas.

The veterans repaid the trust that the coaches had in them by playing their roles to the hilt. James, Bader, Peejay, Kish, and Simon played consistenly well throughout the game, steadying the team even in the face of that will-sapping 17-point lead erected by the Tigers who seemed like they could pick apart the Archer defense at will. The veterans showed the young ‘uns that playing within the system works, as they refused to be demoralized or discouraged and systematically worked their way back into the game.

The veterans demonstrated the effectiveness of the two-way game that the coaches require from the Archers. Bader (10 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, no errors) harassed the Tiger guards on defense, and repeatedly penetrated the UST defense to fish for fouls or dish out assists. James (18 points, 62.5% fg accuracy, 9 rebounds) continued his sterling play against UST. Peejay (only 6 points, but his timing in finding his touch was impeccable) fired those consecutive treys that tied the score at the end of the first extension and opened scoring in the second. Kish (13 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block) again played the yeoman’s role as he knotted the score to force overtime, and repeatedly scored inside on heady plays.

Team captain Hyram, together with fellow sophomores Maui, Joshua and Jovet provided quality minutes and did their share on defense. Joshua had a perfect shooting game as he tallied 10 points on 4/4 fg shooting and 2/2 ft shooting, aside from giving his guards fits as he blew past them on his daredevil drives. Maui and Jovet helped clog the lanes to stem the attempts of the UST forwards to penetrate on their drives. Hyram played his role as captain to the hilt, passing out 7 assists and connecting from the field late in the ball game.

What they did right

Never gave up. For a while, it looked like a repeat of the first 2 games against UE and FEU, with UST threatening to blow the game wide open in the 3rd quarter. In fact, the team turned on the pressure up some more when they fell behind and persevered, even when UST managed to trade baskets to keep the lead in double digits late in the 3rd.

Kept their faith in themselves and each other. Peejay shot his way out of the slump with 2 triples – one to tie the game at the end of the first overtime, and another to open the second overtime. Franz, who never showed signs of panic or frustration even when the deficit ballooned, gave his vote of confidence to his players, and they validated that faith by delivering the results when it mattered.

The team’s energy was maintained at a very level throughout the game. The Archers’ conditioning paid off, and at the end of the game, they looked like they could still go another quarter. In contrast, the Tigers looked tired and sapped of energy, their shots were off line or short and they no longer had any spring in their legs.

What wasn’t quite right?

The defense.

First, a word on offense. The Archer offense has always been there, but in the first few games, they were still adjusting to the competition and to each other. That’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. Shooting accuracy doesn’t improve magically over a few games if the skills weren’t there in the first place. Our lineup is studded with players who can regularly sink the long trey, from our point guards, SG’s, forwards, and even Arvie. Probably only Ferdinand, Maui, Kish, Yutien, and Jovet would not willingly take a 3 point attempt if absolutely free. The rest, all of 11 players, down to the rookies, are reasonably good bets to sink the shots. It’s just a matter of being comfortable with the shot, and being confident enough to take it without hesitation.

Back to defense. The Archers allowed UST to score 92 points. Granted that there were two overtime periods and that UST is the league’s highest scoring team so far. But the Archers game is built on the defense keeping the opponents’ point output down rather than overwhelming them with points. UST came prepared with a press break that was successfully implemented, netting them several fastbreaks once the UST dribbler got past his man. At first, the Archers found it hard to control the freewheeling Tiger offense, which would attack the Archer perimeter through dribble drives. Ababou and Mirza repeatedly drove into the lane from the 3point area.

The middle quarters saw UST score 28 and 27 points, and this was just around 6 points below the points average of the Archers’s opponents in the previous games. Opponents will get hot, will have runs, and the Archers have to learn to weather these and bounce back. They had good practice yesterday, but prevention is always the best cure, so preventing those runs should be the primary objective. Then they wouldn’t have to do damage control or play catch up.

Trust our coaches to spot the problems and work out countermeasures. For example, Mirza’s moves were analyzed during halftime, in particular his penchant to drive to his left then stop and spin right to take his shot, and in the second half he was limited to just 2 points. Ababou was also well marked, and he was unable to continue his production when the Archer defense bore down on him.

Some might ask – why gripe about the defense, we won, didn’t we? The Archers will not be successful if they try to win via shootout. An offense-oriented team risks having off days, but a defensive team can always rely on building a winning margin if they can keep the opponents’ score below theirs. And defense has always been a trademark of Archer ball.

On to everyone’s pet peeve – foul throws. We missed 20 (25/45) while UST missed 14 (20/34). In a close game like yesterday’s we would have lost if we had missed one more free throw in regulation. Or in the first overtime.

And lastly, the concentration. There were occasional lapses, particularly when they had succeeded in stalling the Tiger offense for over 20 seconds. Yet the UST players managed to score in the last couple of seconds of the shot clock a few times. This was also the case in the previous games. The Archers must remember that the stop isn’t complete until they get the ball back without the opponents scoring, so they should continue to apply the pressure for the full 24 seconds.

The rookie watch

Arvie Bringas finally showed why he was so highly regarded by the coaching staff. Topscored, dominated on offense and defense, played for almost 3 full quarters at 29 minutes, the most of any Archer rookie this year. Battled the athletic Tigers on the boards, dove for the ball, took a couple of shots, and ended the game with a lump under his eye. He’s gained his confidence, learned not to rush, and the results show. He may not do as well in future games, but he will now be able to contribute more and ease the load on his teammates.

Yutien played only 5 minutes, had a rebound and nice putback. He made things difficult for the Tigers in the paint while he was on the floor. Sam likewise played 5 minutes, and although he was scoreless, hauled down 3 rebounds, two of them on the offensive glass. Joel played only 4 minutes because Franz rotated Simon, Bader, and Hyram at the point. Gab and Jed did not see any action.

The outlook

The Archers will finish the first round with a winning record, at worst they end at 4-3 and at best 5-2. They cannot afford the same lapses against the well trained Blue Eagles, who will pounce on any weaknesses that become apparent. The Ateneo game is solid – good inside operators in Al-Husseini, Baclao, and Salva, good long shooters in Monfort and Reyes, and penetrators in Buenafe and Salamat. They can form 2 starting fives with their lineup.

Expect Black to try to maximize his advantage inside by setting up Al-Husseini at the block, and if double teamed, kick it out to the perimeter to find an open shooter on the weak side. Or pass it to a weak side cutter. They have lots of weapons. And it’s a fair bet that they’ve prepared for the Archer press, so there won’t be too many easy points off turnovers.

On defense, they’ll probably clog the interior, use the zone extensively, and dare the Archers to hit the long one. Any Archer who enters the lane with the ball will be funneled to the bigs led by shot blocker Baclao.

The green-and-white are definitely the underdogs in Sunday’s game. What are the plans to counter the Ateneo advantage? We’ve already seen some of them in the game against UST. There will probably be some surprises. What are they? Now that would be telling.

Notes:

The UST Yellow Jackets and the DLSU Pep Squad exchanged drumbeats in a friendly exchange at the start of the game and at the end.

The tally board shows that there is a unique opportunity to have 4 teams tie for first place at the end of the first round following this scenario:
Aug 6: UE (now 3-2) wins over UP (Thu Aug 6) to go 4-2
UST (now 3-2) wins over FEU (now 4-1), both have a 4-2 record
Aug 8: UST (4-2) beats UP to end at 5-2
Aug 9: The winner of the UE-FEU match ends at 5-2; the loser drops to 4-3
We beat Ateneo, we both end at 5-2

Good luck on getting tickets for Sunday, and KEEP THE FAITH!