One down, two to go. Another cliffhanger victory against a tough UST squad that was all primed to shut the door on the Archers’ chances to enter the final 4. As was widely rumored before the game, the Archers all came with shaven heads in a sign of unity, and their shared objective showed in the fire and passion they injected into their game yesterday.
Twas a game of streaks and runs. In the second quarter, the Archers displayed the fluid basketball game and high impact defense they are known for to build a lead that went up to 18 points before UST scored twice to bring it down to 12 at the half. And the ugly 3rd quarter that allowed UST to climb all the way back from that double digit deficit to catch the Archers at 43-all, in the process holding us to a solitary point in that stretch.
At the end, it was the veterans who showed what desire is all about. James came up big in the second half after riding the bench for the entire first half to almost singlehandedly drive back the repeated charges of the Tigers. Peejay sank his first two attempts, played honest defense, and even did a belly flop in the second half to grab a loose ball.
What went right
The sense of urgency. In contrast to previous games, the Archers came out aggressively, attacking UST at every opportunity. After all, a loss to UST would have resulted in outright elimination from the final 4 for the first time in recent memory. Again, for the first time in a while, the Archers led in the first half and even threatened to turn the game into a blow out, as their 3point shooting clicked and the fast paced game forced the Tigers to repeatedly backpedal.
The 3point shot re-emerged as a potent weapon of the Archers, getting almost half of the total score from long distance. The Archers hit 10 (34.5%) of their 29 attempts.
The defensive intensity was also ratcheted up a couple of notches. The interior defense, in particular, kept the Tigers at bay and turned them into a jump shooting team whenever they couldn’t run a fastbreak. The team registered 7 blocks on the Tigers, 3 by Yutien, who also altered several other shots. The team effectively covered the passing lanes, again led by Yutien who stole the ball twice. Fittingly, it was a defensive stop which sealed the game for us: Ababou’s last attempt was blocked by James as he tried to bull his way past 3 Archers.
The younger players played well during their stints in the first half, allowing Franz the luxury of sitting his veterans James and Bader. However, when UST threatened, he put in James who responded aggressively for the first time in several games. James went for his shot, choosing his spots, and collected 15 points in only 13 minutes. Joel pumped in double digits for the second straight game on top of 6 rebounds and 3 assists and 2 steals. Sam broke out of his mini slump, firing 8 points on a couple of treys and a field goal.
The improved team spirit saw the Archers share the ball well, resulting in 14 assists. Both of James’ triples came off good assists from Joel, who found James free at the perimeter.
What didn’t go so well
The 3rd quarter, when the Archers allowed UST to make a game of it. Perhaps they tried too hard, but consecutive turnovers gave the Tigers most of their 13 turnover points. In fact, the Archers had more turnovers with 19 against UST’s 16. Some of the turnovers occurred on the perimeter. The tendency to commit travel errors is still there for the perimeter players like Joshua, as well as charging fouls as our players either use their shoulders or push off with their arms in an attempt to make space for their penetrations.
Foul shooting woes reappeared. The Archers shot 12/26, with Yutien making only 1/6 and Hyram 1/4. If they had converted even half of those that they missed, the game might not have been so close. The Archers also surrendered too many fouls, getting into foul trouble early and gifting UST with 36 ft attempts. Again, if not for the unnecessary fouls, UST would not have been able to climb back into the game.
Rebounding could also have been improved. The Archers allowed UST to pull down 21 offensive boards, pretty high for a team with undersized centers and power forwards.
Again, UST caught our players napping with quick inbounds after we score. They tried this in the first round, and UE also attempted it in our previous game.
The rookie watch
For the second straight game, Joel showed that he has the makings of a great point guard. He brings quickness and speed, and gives his teammates the assurance that he can get them the ball in their preferred positions with his good passing skills. Aside from his ball handling and distribution, Joel can shoot from long range and penetrate as well. Yutien’s growing defensive prowess made things difficult for UST in the paint, as he blocked a few shots and forced the Tigers to alter several others. His positioning is good, and he’s not afraid to take shots inside the paint. However, he needs to improve his free throw shooting. Sam mixed up his shooting distances, hitting a couple of treys as well as a field goal closer in. If he can improve his penetration and footspeed, he’ll be the compete player. Arvie again nailed a triple, but was too “gigil” and forced a couple of offensive plays. Perhaps he needs to be set up inside instead of on the perimeter. Gab played for a short stretch, and Jed failed to see any action.
One down, two to go. What’s in our control is only our remaining 2 games, tomorrow against FEU, and our last game against NU. If we win both, we end up with a 7-7 record. And hope that UST loses at least one more game against either ADU or UE. UST is now at 6-6, just a game ahead of our 5-7.
If the boys play with the same intensity and fire, we have a good chance against FEU tomorrow. It’s down to execution of the game plans. And how much the players want to get into the final 4.
KEEP THE FAITH!!!