The Green Archers fought bravely indeed but just came up short. The Fighting Maroons who have played so many close games this season looked a lot more comfortable than us during the clutch and that is probably because we have more at stake in this game. As a long-time Green Archer fan, this will be the first time that we will be out of the final four for two years in a row. Yep, we can call ourselves spoiled but it is what it is and no matter how you look at it, it’s hard to accept it but that’s life.
I want to congratulate the boys for giving their all up to the end especially Jamie, Aljun, Brandon, Joaqui, Balti and Encho. I love scorers who do not shy away from taking shots even when they miss like Balti and Aljun who will shoot their way out of their slump until they connect when it matters and I love it. Jamie was again superb on both ends! And Brandon held off everyone including Akuetie and what he brings to the table is just invaluable. When you lose and see the boys go down fighting like that I just cannot help but feel proud of the way they carried the name in front of their jerseys.
But when we lose by just 3 points it is so painful that I could not help but take notice of some small things that maybe we could have done differently and maybe the 3 points difference could have been erased or maybe not. I won’t talk about the free throws anymore because 16 of 26 for 61.5% is about our average on a good day. Asking them to sink 3 more for 19/26 for 73% would be too uncharacteristic of the team. But during the game there are two things that I could not help but notice:
We kept pulling out our guns maybe a little too early at the end of each quarter and UP kept capitalizing on it to end with a bang. We started the 2nd quarter down by 10, 21-11. After UP scored 6 (26-11) straight points to raise the lead by 16 we went on a 21-0 tear led by Jamie on the offensive end and Brandon and Jamie holding off Akhuetie and Kobe on the other end for a 31-27 lead. Then with still over a minute left Jamie and Brandon were rested. That was when coach Bo took advantage and left Bright inside to capitalize, scoring 4 baskets to ignite an 8-2 run ending the half leading by one when we should have ended the 2nd up by at least 2-4. Then in the third quarter, we did it again! This time we were just down by three and again Jamie and Brandon were sat down, and immediately Bright scored on an and-1 play (didn’t make the FT) and another driving layup and Manzo closed with a three for a 7-0 run ending the 3rd with a 10 point lead! 1:30 minutes is about good for 3-4 plays and UP made the most of it. 8 of the 17 points by Akhuetie were scored during those last-minute in-between quarters when we sat Brandon down.
Resting our guns with about a minute left to end the quarter is just about standard on a regular game. But this was an all-important game, a win-or-go-home game and perhaps consider squeezing a few more ounces of sweat from our scorers for a few more seconds could go a long way. If we end the quarter holding on to a lead it gives the starters some luxury to be rested longer at the start of the next quarter. Moreover, the second stringers when taking over, usually play better with the lead than when they are playing catch up. And besides, at half time you get a full 15-minute rest. Maybe we should make sure we end each quarter on a high note instead of throwing away our momentum.
The coaching staff’s tweaking of individual skill sets is also as crucial, like player habits which cause them to commit travelling violations or other errors. These little things killed our momentum in this, as well as in other crucial games. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of our players are still playing sick haven’t recovered their strengths back. But let’s not sugarcoat the need to develop their skill sets and minimize their errors. The coaches can help them a great deal with that. I don’t know if these tweaks could have changed the outcome of this game but it is worth noting that compared to the past Green Archer teams this batch has the lowest average in turnovers. With these adjustments, their average could still go down further and might turn lost close games into wins. The devil is in the details.
These are just observations I noticed during the game and the coaches unfairly do not have 20/20 hindsight. But maybe in the next games this can be a lesson worth looking at.