Already assured of the number two seed in the semis with a twice-to-beat advantage, there’s one more thing left for the Green Archers to do before they close out the elimination round, give Ateneo their first “L” of the season.
Since that one-point loss to the Blue Eagles last October 8, La Salle has racked up six straight wins, winning by an average of 19 points. The team has been playing true to form and appear to be peaking at this point. Defense has improved, Ben has reintegrated himself back into the team’s flow, Aljun is slowly regaining his pre-Dengue form and Santi has emerged as a steady two-way player.
Ateneo on the other hand has been a picture of consistency all throughout this season with their methodical, deliberate style of play. With a still unblemished record heading into tomorrow’s match against the Green Archers, they are a win away from an outright finals seat.
Are there chinks in the Blue Eagles’ armour? Well in most of their second round games, it seemed like their opponents have somehow managed to keep in step with them only to falter towards the end. Don’t let the final scores fool you – Ateneo somehow has that finishing kick in them when things get tight down the stretch. Their defense steps up a notch and that enables them to pull away to close out the game.
Can La Salle come out on top this time ? One thing’s for sure though, the team is playing much better than the last time they lost a game. We are confident that they will come out determined to stop the Blue Eagles from sweeping the eliminations.
Keys To The Game
When the Archers play well in the first half, they win. In both of their losses this season, they were trailing after two quarters. Given that the team does not seem to do well catching up from a big deficit, it’s important that they come out with more intensity right from the get-go.
Just like in the first round, expect the Blue Eagles to try to get off to a quick start. The team needs to match their intensity and if they manage to build a significant lead heading into the 2nd half, they will be in a better position to win.
Play Straight-Up Defense
We are expecting this game to be tightly-called so it is best for the team not to be overly aggressive on defense. Also, they should not gamble too much on double teaming and traps as Ateneo has done a good job in making those extra passes to the open player on the wings or under the paint. To be honest, they know how to counter Mayhem already.
It may be better to just play honest, straight-up defense on them. Since they rely heavily on their open shooters, perhaps the team can just guard them man-to-man rather than zone. Honestly, the Green Archers are the better team when it comes to individual talent so this approach may work.
Aljun and Santi
The Archers would need these two to step up if they are to have a much better chance to win against Ateneo. Aljun was unable to suit up and Santi only managed to score 2 points in that first round encounter.
It’s expected that Ben and Ricci will get their usual production in this game but the others need to show up and contribute significantly. It will be a big plus to see Aljun hit those three balls and for Santi to keep up with his steady performance in the second round.
Stop Matt Nieto
Not the most talented and physically-gifted player in their roster but we believe that Matt Nieto is the main cog that makes the Blue Eagles successful this season. He is their catalyst on offense, plays good defense and manages to make the big shots come crunch time.
If there is any motivation for the Green Archers to win this games is the fact that Ateneo denied them of a 14-0 sweep last year.
They did that to us not just once. 15 years ago, the Blue Eagles also gave La Salle its only loss in their last elimination round game. Of course we all know what happened after that. Damn, until today it still stings.
Not only will a win set the stage for a Final 4 semis but it will give the Green Archers that psychological edge and confidence especially that both teams are expected to meet again in the finals.
Let’s make it happen.