For the De La Salle University Women’s Basketball Team, two years of not being in the Final Four of the UAAP Women’s Basketball Tournament are two years too much.
As the gold medalists in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2013, the Lady Archers are on a mission to arrest the skid and return to the post-season when Season 82 commences. The road ahead will be difficult as seven other schools are gearing up to fight for those precious spots.
With the task at hand all set, the onus is on experienced players such as Bernice Paraiso, Marga Jimenez and Bennette Revillosa to lead the team on and off the court to enter the post-season for the first time since Season 79.
Becoming their sisters’ keepers
In most if not all team-related social media posts by the players and coaches, one, #AnimOHANA, always stands out. It is a fusion of the word ‘Animo’, which is known as the Lasallian battle cry, and ‘ohana’, the Hawaiian term for family popularized by the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch. Just like in all families, though, some members are more accountable than others.
“Bigger yung responsibility namin now because the younger ones look up to us and coach (Cholo) expects more from us now,” said Paraiso.
The longer athletes compete in the UAAP, additional burdens are mounted on their shoulders because of their exposure in games as well as student-athlete life. With expectations for them higher, it is safe to say that they have no choice but to step up.
“I think there’s pressure because, at the same time, you have to help the seniors lead and then you have to be able to play and be in control. You have to stay composed,” said Jimenez.
Being one of the older players in the team, there is also a tendency to be more observant of the things going on around you and a duty to pass on your knowledge to your younger teammates.
Revillosa explained, “Talented (ang mga rookie) but they lack things like defense, mga skills and yung (pag-intindi sa) system. As a veteran, I tell them what they can do within the system. For example, meron silang certain skill na kaya nilang gawin, parang how they can incorporate in within the system (yung itututro ko) since alam ko na yung system. Gagawan namin ng paraan para maipasok ang mga skills nila para hindi sila mailang at maging komportable sila sa paglalaro.”
Getting ready for the journey ahead
In the UAAP, teams only have 14 games to make the post-season. With such a low margin of error, varsity programs have to hit the ground running even before the actual games start through pre-season engagements such as friendly matches and tourneys. The intense training sessions and competitions were meant to improve on last season’s narrow failure of making the Final Four, particularly their identity as a team on the court.
“Dati kasi medyo sloppy, medyo mabagal. Ngayon, medyo mabilis like pass and cut or less dribble, more on passing forward. Parang more on fundamentals ng paglalaro, yun yung mostly na binago namin,” shared Revillosa.
Perhaps the Lady Archers’ most memorable and important pre-season engagement was the 2019 Xiamen International Tournament in Xiamen, China, where they faced teams from different parts of the world.
“Center ako here pero yung mga point guard in Xiamen, kasing-height ko. We learned a lot there especially sa paglaro sa mga kalaban namin na walang mahina at hindi namin kilala. Wala kaming expectation sa kung anong kaya nilang gawin. Alam lang namin na malaki sila. So we took it one game at a time but we fell short every time. Coming back, gusto namin i-apply lahat ng natutunan namin from there and it’s simply playing simple basketball,” explained Paraiso
And going up against players who can reach a higher ceiling than them on foreign soil is the best way to prepare against rivals such as Far Eastern University and defending champions National University.
Jimenez added, “The champion team, Japan, weren’t so big. Knowing that we’re also going up against bigger players in the UAAP, it gave us the motivation that even if we’re a small team, we can be able to mimic the game of Japan and beat those who are bigger than us.”
Ready, Aim, Final Four
Every new season gives each team the fresh start it deserves. The Lady Archers were just one game away from sealing a Final Four slot last season. What happened then has simply become a source of learnings and motivation.
Paraiso said, “I think we lacked accountability kasi parang umaasa kami sa points sa mga shooters. This year, we’re learning to have our own accountability na pag mali ko, mali ko, pag tama, kaya, ganyan. Communication din. Pag may problema sa team, we say it agad so that we can resolve it and hindi namin madala sa court.”
With a 3-11 record in Season 80 and an 8-6 standing in Season 81, it is high time the Final Four welcomes the Green & White once again.
“I’m so hungry to be able to enter the Final Four pa lang because it started with my batch that we haven’t been able to enter the Final Four. I really want to prove something to coach (Cholo) and to the school that there’s a purpose as to why they got us as recruits. Hopefully, this year we’ll be able to reach that and more,” said Jimenez.
And with the Lady Archers set to start their campaign against the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons on September 4, 2019, 10:00 AM at the University of Santo Tomas Quadricentennial Pavillion, expect them to go all out right from tip-off.
“Dito na malalaman kung may natutunan tayo sa mga pre-season tournaments especially doon sa China, which gave us a lot of experiences and learnings. Sa coming first game namin, dun matetest if we’re really ready for the season. If we win that game, it means, probably we’re on the right track. But if we don’t, kailangan namin pagtrabahuin pa yung kailangan naming gawin para makamit ang panalo,” concluded Revillosa.