This was a tale of 2 teams.
One that lost the game in the first half, when they allowed UE to have their way. One that meekly surrendered the paint to the inside forays of the Warriors. One that showed only token resistance at the perimeter, and conjured visions of another repeat blowout. One whose defensive stiffness had the consistency of tissue paper. One whose players only scored 1 point more than UE’s Llagas and Espiritu in first half. The same team that shot airballs off wide open jumpers from the side.
And the team that played classic Archer ball in the second half. Which held UE to 14 and 12 points in the last 2 quarters while scoring 37 points in the same periods. Which played fluid basketball for long stretches to overhaul the UE lead. Where the pressure defense forced UE into uncharacteristic turnovers, and only the inability of the Archers to convert their last attempts saved the day for UE.
What went right
The second half.
Where the Archers shook off their lethargy and outhustled the Warriors. For the first time in the last 4 games, the Archers showed some semblance of the aggressive, confident, smooth game that has been the trademark of past Archer teams. The defense stiffened considerably, forcing UE into 20 turnovers, which they converted into 24 turnover points. The Archers were also more active on the boards in the last 20 minutes, often limiting UE to a single attempt. Oh yeah, unnoticed was the significant improvement in our free throw shooting. The Archers made 12/15 for 80%, probably the best performance in the last 3 seasons. Joel made 5/6, and Joshua made 4/5. Now we know who should be on the floor when the opponents adopt “hack-an-Archer” tactics.
There were some bright spots coming from individual Archers. Joel showed that he deserves to spend more time as the primary pg option now that Simon is out for the season. Kish continued his heady play, contributing points off the most unexpected moves, showing great anticipation in cutting off the passing angles for interceptions, and grabbing 7 rebounds against the more athletic bigs of UE. Maui continued his aggressiveness on offense, attacking the lane and using his quickness and timing to score inside while pulling down 8 rebounds, the most on our team. Hyram showed why he is much more effective playing the 2 position, moving well without the ball to get the passes in the quartercourt where he drained those long treys. Joshua also continued to attack the rim from the perimeter, and alternated in trying to shackle Paul Lee.
What didn’t go well
The first half. Again, a slow start, as the Archers almost sleepwalked through the first few minutes, allowing UE to take a lead that they held for more than 3 quarters. It was obvious that the coaches had made specific plans to counteract the aggressive UE offense, yet the execution left much to be desired. Like UST, the Warriors tried to catch the Archers flatfooted after an Archer basket, and they were successful a few times, particularly with Lee on the break. The Archers almost seemed distracted, and a prime example was Arvie’s inattention in the last couple of seconds which allowed Llagas to score off a long pass.
It took a trio of sophomores to lead the scoring: Hyram, Maui, and Joshua, with 8 points contributed by Kish, a 3rd year player. Of course, our rookie pg Joel scored his career high with 10. Our veterans James, Peejay, and Bader contributed a total of 4 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 assists. Unfortunately, they missed all 13 attempts from the 3point area and made only 1/11 of their 2point attempts. However, given their skills and the confidence of our coaches, I wouldn’t discount the possibility that any or all of them could make a positive impact in the remaining games. Of our players in uniform, Ferdinand again failed to see any action.
The rookie watch
This was Joel’s coming out game, and he showed that he is an able replacement for LA. His numbers in 15 minutes: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a couple of turnovers. His adept ballhandling, passing, and overall aggressiveness allowed the Archers to pick up the pace noticeably whenever he was fielded in the game. Joel’s effective stint as pg allowed Hyram to move over to sg during which he sank 4 out of 7 attempts from beyond the arc for all his 12 points Arvie nailed another triple, but was not on court long enough in stretches to get any sort of rhythm. Yutien was tested by Llagas and Espiritu whenever he was tasked to guard them, and although failed to produce any stats except fouls, he made things difficult for the Warriors inside. Sam again made a field goal but did not attempt any triple. Jed and Gab saw action for a minute each, but both showed a lot of hustle during their limited time on the floor.
The Archers can only get to a 7-7 record at best; to do this, we must win our remaining games: UST, FEU, and NU. Since UST won over NU today, they are now at 6-5, and we play them on Thursday in a must-win game for us. If we win, our record will be 5-7, while UST’s will be 6-6. After us, UST still has to play Adamson and UE. If they win 2 of their last 3 games, we won’t be able to catch them and we’re out of the playoffs.
The team will have to play with the same intensity and emotion that they showed in the second half if they are to have a chance to win our remaining 3 games. The question is: what lineup will Franz use in these 3 games? Will the vets still see considerable playing time (James, Peejay and Bader saw action for 41 minutes out of the total of 200 minutes available in a regulation game), or will Franz try out his young ‘uns?
If you want the answer to this puzzler, come and watch our remaining games. There’s still a chance we can make the playoffs. How we do it will be interesting. And, who knows, against all the odds, we might just scrape it into the playoffs. Stranger things have happened.
KEEP THE FAITH!