Before they head off to their yearly training stint abroad, the young Green Archers get their first crack this year at their greatest rivals when they face Ateneo tomorrow in what promises to be another intense preseason showdown. In their previous summer match-up last year, the Green Archers escaped with a 67-65 win despite fielding a rookie-laden lineup.
Despite the loss of Al-Hussaini, Reyes and Baclao, the Blue Eagles are still among the heavy favorites this season. They still have the likes of Salamat, Long, Salva and Buenafe plus they boosted their frontline by adding Escueta and Erram from their farm team and Dela Cruz from San Beda. Compared with this powerhouse team, our Archers are really “green”, both literally and figuratively. We only have 5 veterans who have played over 2 years in the UAAP: Atkins, Ferdinand, Mendoza, Webb, Villanueva, while the rest of the team (11 players) are all sophomores and rookies.
With the advantage of height, experience, talent, and championship composure – Ateneo has all the odds stacked in their favor. In their first game against the taller San Beda Red Lions, the Blue Eagles were noticeably rusty in the first half, but overcame an 11-point deficit to win going away. In contrast, the Archers struggled before they eked out a 1-point win against a weaker Letran team.
The Green Archers are still in the process of blending together as a unit with so many new faces in addition to a new coach. Although they blew out EAC in the second game, the last game against UP revealed the weakness of the team against strong opposition as they lost to the bigger and more experienced Maroons last Wednesday.
The biggest advantage the Archers have over their Ateneo counterparts is speed so if they can be able to outrun them and do well in the perimeter, this can offset their lack of ceiling. Of course, with their renewed willingness to take the ball to the hoop, they will get fouled, so let’s not forget the importance of making those foul shots.
Just as in every game against them, expect it to be heated and emotionally-charged. Let’s enjoy the renewal of our famed rivalry with Ateneo tomorrow.