The Green Archers shocked the highly fancied Ateneo Blue Eagles, 77-74 in their much anticipated Filoil Flying V tournament matchup today. Trailing for most of the game, the Archers made key stops when it mattered late in the fourth quarter, and their Atenean counterparts helped seal our victory by missing their crucial free throws and making uncharacteristic endgame blunders.
Coach Dindo shortened his rotation today, fielding only 13 players, but all those who saw action played important roles in helping the Archers neutralize the height and experience advantage of Ateneo. As expected, the Archers opted for an uptempo game, gang rebounding and running whenever possible. They dove for loose balls, chased those long passes, and tirelessly fought through the screens set by the Ateneo bigs.
Surprisingly, our smaller team outrebounded Ateneo 45-39, and collared more offensive boards, 19-11. The superior early season conditioning of the Archers told on the less-fit Blue Eagles, who were left huffing and puffing at the end of the game after their frantic attempts to catch up went for naught.
Senior players Atkins and Ferdinand proved to be steady all game long, with Simon effectively running the offense and looking more to set up his teammates. Ferdinand again was a force in the paint, battling for the boards and unveiling a post up game that surprised his defenders. He even posterized Salva on the fastbreak, dunking despite Salva’s flailing attempt to block him. And it was his clutch performance in the last 3 minutes that was critical to La Salle’s comeback from a 65-70 deficit.
Rookies Vosotros, dela Paz, and Tampus all put in creditable performances. Vosotros and dela Paz made important plays in the last 2 minutes, and Tampus provided instant offense and hustle during his time on the floor. Jovet Mendoza again saw limited action as he tries to come back from illness, but combined well with Ferdinand, Andrada, and Villanueva in keeping Ateneo away from the boards. Elorde spelled Atkins and although he did not score, again showed his hardnosed defending against the more experienced Monfort.
The fight back in the fourth quarter when Ateneo threatened to pull away was indicative of the Archers’ desire to pull the rug from under the Blue Eagles. Trailing at 56-65, Webb penetrated the Blue Eagle defense for a layup that was almost a dunk, then Vosotros set up Marata for a 3. After Salva scored 61-67, Vosotros showed his exceptional ball control and hang time when he triple pumped the ball while in the air to score, and he followed it with a fastbreak basket. A Monfort triple extended their lead, 65-70 before Vosotros penetrated and dished to a waiting Villanueva under the basket. An offensive foul by Ateneo rookie center Escueta gave the ball back, and after a couple of misses by both teams, Atkins found dela Paz in the frontcourt on long pass, and Luigi coolly sank the triple on the break against Salamat.
On the next sequence, with 2:04 left in the game and the score tied at 70, Salamat drove in and was fouled by Ferdinand. Possibly frustrated by his inability to stop a mere rookie from tying the score, Salamat bounced the ball on Ferdinand’s head and kicked him in a most sensitive area. Unsportsmanlike foul! Salamat made both free throws to give Ateneo their last taste of the lead, but Ferdinand tied it at 72 by making both foul shots. A miscue gave the ball back to Ateneo, but Long missed an ill-advised 3-point attempt. After a Marata miss, Ferdinand kept the ball alive, which was picked by Marata who was fouled. Marata made only one, we led 73-72.
Another missed triple by Monfort, Marata took a short jumper from the side, missed but pulled in the rebound, was fouled. He missed both, but Andrada was fouled on the next play. Again, both free throws were missed, but Ferdinand grabbed the rebound and made the putback to give us a 75-72 lead, time down to 22 seconds. Ateneo called their last timeout, and threw the ball in their front court. Long attempted a triple, but was blocked by Andrada who unfortunately made contact after the block. Take 3. Long made the first, missed the second to the groans of the blue-and-white stands, and sank the third to pull Ateneo within 1. Timeout La Salle.
On the floor were Ferdinand, Atkins, Vosotros, dela Paz, and Webb. Andrada inbounded to Vosotros, who was promptly fouled by Monfort, 11.3 seconds left. Penalty, and Vosotros coolly sank both free throws. With no more timeouts left, Salamat ran the ball up, took an attempt from the 3-point area, missed, Long got the rebound and was fouled with 2.8 seconds left. He flubbed the first and intentionally missed the second, Ateneo getting the rebound and Monfort getting a clear shot from the 3-point area, which fortunately rimmed out.
The win, while a great morale booster, is not a real preview of our coming UAAP encounters with Ateneo. Their team was obviously out of shape, and their endgame misses and lack of poise allowed the Archers to gut out the win. It must be remembered that last year, the Archers also edged Ateneo by 2 points in a pre-season game, but we were swept by the Blue Eagles in the UAAP last season.
There are a few positives that we can build on: the conditioning, never-say-die attitude that was sorely lacking in last year’s team, the improved performance and leadership of our veterans, the continued development of our sophomores, the rookies who look like they only need a bit more exposure to perform well, the renewed focus on the pressure defense. Of course, there are still a lot of holes to be patched: the foul shooting, the tendency to foul. Still, a win is a win, even in the pre-season.
Box Scores: Vosotros 13, Webb 12, Ferdinand 11, Dela Paz 11, Marata 7, Andrada 6, Tampus 5, Atkins 4, Banal 4, Mendoza 2, Villanueva 2. Elorde 0, Paredes 0