The Green Archers ran roughshod over last year’s runner-up UE Warriors, 82-63 to get back into the winning column. The game felt like a replay of their performance against UP, with La Salle scoring first to grab the lead they never relinquished, and pulling away in the second half to rout their stunned opponents. Like UP, UE was unofficially ranked above DLSU despite losing 3 of their top players of last year. Maui Villanueva returned from a sub-par game against NU with a superb game: 16 points (6/9 fgs, 4/5 fts!, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal).
Another fast start was the key
One of the concerns about this “green” Archer team is their consistency. But this time, no one’s complaining, because they started off strong unlike their game against NU. Team Captain Atkins again figured prominently in the strong start, sinking a corner triple to kick off scoring. Again, in another parallel to their first game, Sam Marata also hit 3point shot in the first quarter, forcing UE to respect the outside shooting and opening up the paint for what was to follow later in the game.
One difference between this game and the previous ones – Ferdinand asserted himself in the first quarter, scoring 6 points and pulling down 3 boards to serve notice that the La Salle interior game would be a force to reckon with, at least for this game. The Archer press, which was considered as already thoroughly scouted, still pulled off some surprises, accounting for 5 turnovers in the opening 10 minutes.
With the green-and-white having settled into a groove, the Archers played steadily to lead at the end of the first quarter, 17-11. UE’s best player, Paul Lee was limited to 2 points in 7 minutes. UE settled down somewhat in the 2nd quarter, their defense stiffened and they implemented their own version of the full court press which forced the Archers into 6 turnovers in the quarter after making only 2 miscues in the first. The halftime ended at 38-31.
Again, like in the UP game, the 3rd quarter saw the Archers ratchet up the defensive pressure with the press and double team, forcing 7 UE turnovers which they converted into 12 points, 10 of which were fastbreak points. The up-tempo game of the Archers prompted the UE Coach Chongson to go “small ball”, at times playing with a 4 guard-1 center lineup just to manage their turnovers and match the La Salle speed game. This move boomeranged, as the Archer bigs asserted themselves on the boards while swatting away many of the Warrior penetrations. Papot Paredes shone in this area, with 6 blocks in a stellar defensive performance. With their interior game nonexistent and their gunners misfiring, Paul Lee took it upon himself to singlehandedly carry UE, firing 25 points but receiving little support from his teammates. So dominating were the Archers on the boards, that for once they outrebounded the competition, 50-33.
What wasn’t quite right
While the win seemed like it came close to a perfect game for the Archers, there are still some areas that will need improvement. In particular, the turnovers – although it seemed that the Archers won the game by defending well and outshooting the Warriors, they racked up more turnovers than they forced, 20-17. UE scored 13 points off turnovers, far too many considering the weakened Warrior lineup. They also allowed UE to steal as many balls as they did, with 6.
For once, La Salle had the height advantage, but permitted UE to pull down 9 offensive rebounds, not a good indication of their ability to keep opposing bigs away from the boards.
Also the fouls – 25 for the Archers, gifted UE with 24 foul shots. The Archers will have to defend without fouling against the teams which shoot fts well, like Ateneo.
What went right
The pressure defense still carried some element of surprise, at one stretch forcing 3 consecutive turnovers including an 8 second violation. The man-to-man defense also extended to the perimeter, making it difficult for UE’s shooters to get open looks; although UE scored on 5 triples, it took them 23 attempts. Great secondary defending once a dribbler managed to penetrate the perimeter, resulting in 6 blocks (all by Paredes) and lots of altered shots by Andrada, Ferdinand, and Villanueva.
The fluid offense returned after disappearing against NU. Good off-the-ball movement by our bigs in the paint for open shots, great ball distribution by our guards Atkins, Tolentino, Vosotros, Marata, and dela Paz to an open teammate resulting in an 18-7 assist imbalance in our favor.
Coach Dindo also prepared well for the UE press and the 1-2-2 zone primarily employed to check our shooters. Although we shot poorly from the 3point area (3/17), the first 2 treys early in the game contributed to the “shock and awe” effect and established our outside shooting as a threat. We were much more accurate with our 2pointers, making 30 out of 48 for a high 62.5%. Good shooting, although the close-in shots contributed to this high percentage.
Our guard corps also proved that it can stand up to the others in the league. When UE went small with 3-and-4 guard lineups, the Archers easily matched their quickness and speed, outplaying them on both ends, allowing us to taking full advantage of our bigger frontline.
The rookie watch
Paredes was easily the revelation against UE, scoring inside (he went 5/6 from the field), pulling down 8 rebounds, blocking 6 shots, assisting once, and stealing the ball once, all in only 18 minutes. Dela Paz again played a good all around game, contributing 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists. Tampus knocked in a tough catch-and-shoot jumper and a ft, and showed promise as a slasher. Vosotros ably spelled Tolentino as the team quarterback, did not score, but focused on ball distribution and rebounding (5). Nico Elorde played for 2 minutes, and provided an assist for one of Villanueva’s baskets under the goal.
Marata continued his improvement, notching a career high in points with 15 from 4/6 shooting from the 2point area, hauling down 4 rebounds and assisting on 3 baskets to go with 1 steal. With his willingness to put the ball on the floor, better ball handling, and positioning on the floor, he is emerging as the threat many felt he would be when he was recruited. Tolentino continued his good play as the primary point guard, managing the ball distribution, stealing twice which he translated into 4 fastbreak points, and assisting 3 times. Andrada was a force inside, scoring on ¾ attempts from up close, pulling down 5 rebounds while outplaying his UE counterparts.
Banal, Reyes, Herrera
Someone once remarked that this edition of the Archers are like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde – you never know who’s going to show up. They play smooth, fluid basketball one game and can’t seem to hit the side of a barn the next game. That inconsistency will cause them to lose some games as they continue the learning process. What’s good about this team is that it shows a “never give up” attitude that was missing last year. As long as they maintain this attitude, they will always be a threat. They will lose some games, but will always be there fighting.