A 73-68 defeat at the hands of the FEU Tamaraws in the one-and-done quarterfinals ended the Green Archers’ stint in the 2011 Fil-Oil Flying V Pre-Season Premier Cup. The team has debuted four rookies and a point guard who has successfully returned after two seasons. Their wins have included blowouts and nail-biters, while their losses have all been decided by ten points or less. With only about three weeks before the start of the collegiate hoop wars, let’s look back on the Archers’ performance at the tournament, which could be an indication of how they would fare in the UAAP season this July.
The Green Archers began their 2011 Fil-Oil campaign with a loss to the UST Growling Tigers. They barged into the win column by drubbing the Arellano Chiefs, before being derailed by the San Sebastian Stags for their second loss. Three games into the tournament, they embarked on their annual two-week training in Chicago.
They outlasted the NU Bulldogs in overtime upon their return and almost pulled off an upset of the reigning NCAA titlists, the San Beda Red Lions, before yielding a two-point loss. The team vented its ire on the hapless Lyceum Pirates to stay alive in the hunt for a quarterfinal seat before hacking out a close win against archrival Ateneo Blue Eagles to punch the last ticket into the quarterfinals.
In the quarters, they were dismissed by the FEU Tamaraws to end their pre-season campaign on a 4-4 win-loss record, which mirrors their record last year.
Like we did last year, we will likewise use the University’s Grade Point System to assess their pre-season using these categories
Ironically, it is the Archers’ offense which ranks among the highest in the tournament, with their 75.5 scoring average ranking fourth among the 17 squads who vied for the Fil-Oil crown. The number of points they put across the board have also served as a barometer for their success, as they average 79 points in their four victories, while averaging 71 in the same number of losses.
As a testament to the team’s depth, no player averages in double figures in terms of scoring. Sophomore Luigi Dela Paz paced the squad and came closest to cracking the double digit mark as he dropped an average of 9.6 points per game. Joseph Marata and rookie Norbert Torres, who have both started in five games, average 8.1 and 8.0 points per game, respectively.
Overall, six players averaged more than seven points for the Archers, and the team is not limited to a handful of offensive options as other players, such as LA Revilla, Simon Atkins, Almond Vosotros and Jovet Mendoza have likewise proved to be capable of picking up the offensive slack.
The La Salle defense has likewise been a yardstick for their success in winning games. They allow their opponents to score 71 points, which is seventh-best in the tournament. They are 3-0 when they hold their opponents to below 65 points, and are 1-4 when their opponents surpass the 65-point mark. Meanwhile, their shotblocking ability, buoyed by the arrival of Torres and the presence of Yutien Andrada and Papot Paredes, actually ranked first in the tournament, as they swatted an average of 4.4 shots per game.
Their lack of personnel at the frontcourt was obvious during their last pre-season stint, as they wound up outrebounded by most of their opponents. However, led by Maui Villanueva, Mendoza and Andrada, the team atoned for their lack of size with sheer determination to actually lead the UAAP in rebounding last season.
However, a year removed from their 2010 Fil-Oil campaign, the Archers once more find themselves outrebounded by their opponents, even in some of their victories. They average 43.1 boards per game, while their opponents haul an average of 44.6. The only games in which they were able to secure a solid rebounding edge were against Arellano (47-38), and Ateneo (44-39), and both these games turned out to be victories.
Torres, aside from one of the team’s leading scorers, also leads the squad in rebounding, pulling down an average of six boards per contest. Andrada, meanwhile, averages five rebounds per game, while three other bowmen average four or more. With their frontline bolstered by the arrival of Torres, Arnold Van Opstal and Ponso Gotladera, the squad must be able to exploit their heft and constantly outrebound their opponents.
Torres has been a revelation for the Archers on both ends of the floor and has earned a starting spot in five of their games. Aside from Torres, it is only Mendoza who is averaging above seven points per game. The former Bullpup has had big games, including their final game against the Tamaraws where he erupted for 22 points. Van Opstal has made more impact on the defensive end, while Villanueva, Paredes and Gotladera are seeing limited minutes. Their additional crew at the four and five spots, however, was not exploited to the hilt, especially in the rebounding department.
Returning point guard Revilla and rookie Dan Sara further bolstered what was already a deep rotation for the guards of the Archers and alleviated the ball handling chores from Atkins and Vosotros. They have also been careful with the ball as they all average less than two turnovers a game. The bulk of their offensive production also comes from the one and two spots, with guys like Dela Paz, Marata, Revilla and Atkins all averaging at least seven points.
With only Revilla being the fixture in the starting line-up, a different player always steps up to bear the scoring load, with some of them coming from the shock troopers of Coach Dindo Pumaren. Dela Paz, who has retooled his three-point shot, Vosotros, and Mendoza have had big games coming off the bench for the squad. Overall, their bench was more than able to backstop the production of their starters, with their efforts accounting for 56% of their total points for an average of 42.4 an outing.
A year removed from their 2010 campaign which also saw them tote a 4-4 win-loss record and make the Final Eight phase of the tournament, the Taft-based squad still suffered from similar problems which they had the previous year, such as poor rebounding and free throw shooting.
But the reason they received a higher mark than last year is simply because they had tougher assignments in the elimination round and still managed to pull off the same feat. The team was able to hold its own against teams like Ateneo, San Beda, San Sebastian, NU, and UST and was still able to land a seat in the quarters. Gone, too were the blowout losses which they suffered at the hands of the Red Lions and the Altas. Their biggest loss was a nine-point decision against the Tigers, and their average losing margin is only a little over five points.
However, that is not to say that the team is completely ready for the grueling 14-game stretch of the UAAP. They boast of one of the most formidable frontlines this year and should be able to take advantage of their size, especially on the boards, and when games go down the wire, they have to make those charities.
But if their eight-game stint in the Fil-Oil Pre-Season Cup was any indication, it appears that this current crop of Archers will be able to compete against the best the UAAP has to offer. And with their players gaining much-needed experience as the season goes on, we can only expect them to get better. The team appears to be headed in the right direction and them nabbing one of the last two Final Four seats isn’t too remote a possibility.
Final Preseason Grade: 2.5