On to the final 4. The Green Archers withstood the desperate attempts of UST to come back from a 3rd quarter deficit, won the 4th quarter shootout to prevail 78-69 to snuff out the playoff ambitions of UST. With the victory of FEU over NU in the first game, the final 4 cast was sealed.
The Archers jumped to a quick 5-2 lead with 2 quick undergoal stabs by Maui and a free throw by Joshua as the Archers pounced on 3 early turnovers by UST, but after a timeout, UST stormed back to take a 10-8 lead which they maintained until the end of the first quarter. The shaky start of the Archers was evidenced in the 7 turnovers in the first 10 minutes. However, our defense stiffened and held UST scoreless for the first 5:45 of the second quarter to grab the lead for good. The second quarter saw UST score only 9 points, miss all 3point attempts, while Joel, Sam, and Simon connected from beyond the arc; the 3point makes were the margin at the half, 36-27.
The 3rd quarter was more competitive, and in fact we were outscored by 2 points, 17-19 as UST finally connected on their 3point attempts, Bautista with 2 and Teng with 1. UST capitalized on our 6 3rd quarter turnovers for 9 points and 5 offensive boards for 7 2nd chance points to narrow the gap to 53-46 after 3 quarters. Two quick baskets by Joshua and a trey by Simon gave us a 12point lead at 60-48 before Camus finally scored his first points, but Joshua, Jovet and Maui combined to give us our biggest lead at 66-50. The closest UST would get was 73-67 before Joel and Simon finished off the wounded Tigers with free throws.
What went wrong
The defense showed some cracks in allowing UST to score 23 points in the final quarter after holding them down to 46 in the first 3 quarters. True, we outscored them 25-23 in the last 10 minutes, but we can’t count on winning games by engaging in a scoring battle. The cornerstone of the Archer game is keeping the opponents’ score down, and against the defensive-minded teams of Ateneo and Adamson, allowing them to rack up the points is a risky proposition.
UST got away with some wide open 3s in the second half where they hit on 6 out of their 13 tries. Our final 4 opponents all have good perimeter shooters: FEU buried NU today with their consecutive treys, with Garcia, Cawaling, Sanga always dangerous from afar. Ateneo has their share of long range gunners in Long, Salamat, and Monfort. Adamson’s pgs are not bashful about hoisting those treys, and their bigs will often draw out the opposing frontline by shooting from the perimeter. So our perimeter defense will need some work to bring it back to up to snuff.
UST’s bigs also managed to sneak in for their share of offensive rebounds for putbacks, and even Teng was able to score inside. They has almost as many offensive boards as we did, 15-14. Also, UST was able to capitalize on defensive gaps that were created whenever one of our players would go for interceptions or steals. And UST coach Jarencio used our full court press for some “nakaw” fastbreaks. Once again, an opponent inbounding under their goal was able to get the ball to a teammate for a sneaky undergoal stab. The defense will have to be more alert to such plays.
Our turnovers were also a cause for concern. In the first half, we matched UST’s turnover tally, allowing them to stay within striking distance. When UST pressed our inbound after they scored in the last quarter, we coughed the ball up with bad passes a couple of times. We didn’t get much of an advantage with turnovers as we had as many as we forced on UST, 20, and turnover points, 21-all.
Oh, we missed a few fts as well, making only 21 out of 34 for 62%. However, our players made most of them when they needed to, 10 out of 14 in the 4th quarter to repel UST’s frantic attempts to rally.
What went right
Joshua Webb had his comeback game, tallying 14 points while playing with controlled aggression. Instead of relying on his trademark drives, he played to his strengths and moved well without the ball to get into position to receive a pass under, where he either converted or drew fouls. And with the success of our open court game, he was able to streak for fastbreak points.
Ferdinand also had a solid game, using his size to great advantage against the smaller frontline of UST and making 3 out of his 4 tries. Maui again played his usual effective game around the paint, cutting in to receive passes for easy points and tending the boards for another double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.
The Simon-Yutien pick-and-roll or give-and-go plays are something to watch. Yutien excels at slicing in after giving a pick, and Simon has the ability to get him the ball in prime scoring position with laser-like accuracy. Good thing that Yutien has good handles and doesn’t lose the ball in crowded situations. And that he makes most of his fg attempts, ¾ today. Jovet was a steady presence inside, scoring on 2 clean drives inside and all 4 of his fts. We outrebounded UST 44-37.
Simon’s steadiness in the clutch is the glue that keeps the team steady during crunch time. In addition to his scoring, he is an able facilitator with his long passes to open teammates for 4 assists. Joel ably partnered with Simon, assisting on 7 of his teammates baskets.
The rookie watch
Luigi played the most at 20 minutes, scored only 1 point but was essential in helping out with the quarterbacking chores together with Joel and Simon. Almond had an off day, played only 7 minutes but still pulled down a couple of rebounds. Papot played limited minutes but managed a block. Oda had a couple of turnovers and went scoreless in 5 minutes.
Sam finally overcame his slump from the rainbow territory, hitting one and showing his ability to penetrate once his man overplays him or bites into a fake on the perimeter to either score on a drive or dish off to an open teammate. Yutien was again very effective inside despite having a nosebleed in the first half from an inadvertent elbow from Camus. Joel also pulled down 6 boards on top of his 7 assists.
Gab, Nico, Martin, and Aiki
We’re now officially in the playoffs, and it’s just a matter of what slot we finish the eliminations at. We play UE on Saturday with barely a day’s rest. UE will play for pride and will give us no quarter, so the boys will have to play their best again. The question now will be, is it better for the Archers to play for position, or should they try to preserve the players for the playoffs and use the remaining games to work out their plays and patterns? I think they’ll go for the wins, because that’s what Archer basketball is all about.
KEEP THE FAITH!