The Archers finished a productive week with a modest 3-game winning streak as they edged the tough UST Growling Tigers 65-64, and tamed the NU Bulldogs 93-69. As of July 21, the Archers are in second place with a 3-1 record, second only to the unbeaten Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Game 3: vs UST
The UST Growling Tigers proved to be the Archers’ toughest opponent to date, engaging the Archers in a tight-fought contest that was decided only in the waning seconds. JV Casio delivered another MVP-quality performance, leading the Archers’ scoring with 19 points. James Mangahas finally showcased his tremendous talent as he made mincemeat of his defenders, tallying 18 points on a variety of difficult, hang-time jumpers up close, making 9/13 on those drives. Bader Malabes also found his touch, connecting for 4 out of 7 3-pt attempts. The Archers’ accuracy from the long court (5/11, 45%) forced UST to extend its defense, preventing the Tigers from double teaming our key players lest they leave a shooter open. The Archers also showed a marked improvement from the foul line, making 17/23.
The Tigers were a difficult match up for the Archers, with their tall, quick wingmen ( Ababou, Canlas, Allera) and their inside presence with Jervy Cruz. The Archers were unable to consistently clamp down on the Tigers’ scorers, allowing four Tigers to score in double figures, led by Ababou. The Archers’ perimeter defense limited UST to 2/9 from 3-point land, but the extended defense resulted in the Tigers getting 17 offensive rebounds. Overall, UST outrebounded our team, 44-32, a wide disparity that has to be addressed by the coaches. This was shown in the points in the paint, where UST had the edge, 56-46. The rebounding advantage of UST also led to more fastbreak points, 12-10, and in 2nd chance points, 10-6. The Archer defense forced 15 UST turnovers, low for a La Salle opponent, but this was practically negated by the 13 La Salle turnovers. Points off turnovers was in our favor, 18-10, as were perimeter points, 22-16.
Once again, an Archer opponent tallied more assists, 17-12. This is not necessarily a cause for worry, and was probably due to the plays called for James, where he was allowed to take on his defenders. Since he would dribble to get into a good shooting position, the passes to him were not counted as assists. The active defense of the Archers also resulted in six steals to none for UST. JWalsh proved his worth inside, blocking 2 Tiger attempts inside, and leading the Archers to a 5-4 advantage in blocks. Franz utilized his bench extensively, fielding in 14 players while Coach Pido used a shorter rotation with 12 players.
What won it for the Archers
Unlike in the Ateneo game, the Archers kept their composure at the end game, sticking to the system and plays called by Franz. The players did not panic when the game was tight, instead they exuded a quiet confidence as they forced UST to react to their moves. That corner trey by Bader was a perfect set up and UST was caught unaware and was unable to adjust in time to bother Bader. JV again played the fireman’s role, sinking a pair of pressure-packed charities. Franz showed his confidence in Maui, making tactical substitutions in the last minute by fielding him in for defense. Maui validated that confidence by making the insurance ft, rendering Ababou’s final 3 at the buzzer meaningless. Marko finally made his appearance, logging 9 minutes, and even though he didn’t score, made things difficult for Jervy Cruz whenever he was on the floor.
In this game, Franz went to an extended rotation, fielding in 14 players, including Jovet Mendoza and Marko. Curiously, Ferdinand played only a minute. Franz probably figured that he would have match up problems with UST’s big men.
The rookie watch
Against an experienced UST team, Franz fielded 5 rookies for a total of 37 minutes. LA and Joshua had the most playing time, with 13 minutes apiece. Maui tallied 7 minutes, but was utilized at the end. Hyram played sparingly for 3 minutes, while Jovet spent only a minute on the court. LA edged former Junior Archer Jeric Fortuna in their individual matchup, outscoring him 6-5, tallying more assists 3-2, but logging more errors, 4-3. The Archer rookies contributed a total of 11 points.
What needed work
Defense – UST was able to find space for Jervy Cruz, who bulled his way to 20 points inside, either connecting on short stabs or follow ups, or getting fouled. Against the taller teams, the Archers struggle to control the boards, and must limit the offensive rebounding of the opponents. The Archers cannot continue to give up 17 offensive rebounds a game and hope to win. Perimeter defense needs a bit of work. We dodged the bullet when Jeric missed those treys at the end. If he had connected on any one of them, the end-game complexion could have been different. They need to defend against the different screens being utilized by teams such as Ateneo to free up their shooters. The Archers also have to work on keeping the opponents’ score down, unless they plan on outshooting the competition. If the Archers limit the opponent’s score to the 60’s, they have a good chance of winning.
The system is now in evidence, and the team adjusted pretty well to their roles. We also got glimpses of the pressure on the press. The Archers’s play also has a tinge of the international game, with lots of ball movement, intricate sets to free up shooters, catch-and-shoot sets, and big men occasionally patrolling the perimeter and taking 3pointers. As long as Rico and JWalsh don’t fall in love with the trey and attempt more than 2 or 3 a game, we should be ok.
Game 4: vs NU
The Archers overcame a slow start and an early deficit to overwhelm the NU Bulldogs last Saturday. The ‘dogs came out growling and barking, and roared to a 21-12 lead before the Archers found their bearings to cut the lead to 2 points at the end of the first quarter, 24-22. Peejay Barua caught fire with 3 consecutive triples to almost singlehandedly haul the Archers back into the game. He also scored the first 5 points in the 2nd quarter to push the Archers into the lead for good.
Barua led all scorers with a career-high 26 points in only 20 minutes of play. He scorched the nets with a 6/8 clip from the 3point line, and 3/4 with 2pointers. Rico was the only other player in double digits with 16, connecting on two treys together with his 13 rebounds. Franz fielded in his entire 16-man lineup. Only LA, Bader, and Simon did not score for the team. After a good shooting game against UST, Bader misfired on all his 3 point attempts, while LA and Simon only tried one shot each in the game.
Jovet put in a good account for himself, playing 6 minutes and netting 8 points on nice moves around the paint, the same total as Maui. Marko showed that he is almost ready for prime time, scoring on a nice spin move and tallying 5 points in 7 minutes of play. Manoj also scored his first points in the seniors division, showing fine form in making 1/1 of his 2point attempts and 1/2 of his fts.
The Archers showed what they can do once they bring their complete game to bear on the opponents, blitzing the Bulldogs en route to turning a 9point deficit late in the first quarter to a 10point margin at the half. They clamped down on defense in the middle two quarters, limiting NU to 12 points in each quarter while doubling their opponents score in the same periods. Interestingly, there were no deadlocks and only one lead change, reflecting the rapid change in the complexion of the game once the Archers found their bearings.
The coaches also concentrated on some of the weak points of the Archer game, resulting in a 49-36 advantage in rebounds and a 25-14 edge in assists. JV played the role of distributor with 7 assists, and compiled a quiet 4 points in 23 minutes on the floor.
The rookie watch
Once the team was comfortably in control, Franz gave the rookies some much needed floor time, giving them 75 minutes in the game. Maui, Hyram, LA, and Joshua played for 18, 18, 17, and 10 minutes respectively, and the rookies collectively scored a total of 26 points with Maui and Jovet pumping in 8 apiece.
What needs work
The Archers were blitzed by an early NU offensive and trailed for the entire first quarter. They may have taken the Bulldogs for granted, and paid the price as NU stepped on the gas. The timely hits of Peejay as he made his entry was the impetus the Archers need to gain the momentum. However, the Adamson win over UE shows that the Archers cannot take any team for granted, so they have to enter each game with the same mindset as they had when they finished UST off.
The high number of errors (24) may be attributed to the substitutes’ time on the court, but the team still has to take care of the ball and play within the system, They cannot afford to relax against any team, since there are conceivably six teams vying for the final 4 slots: Ateneo, UE, UST, FEU, Adamson, and La Salle.
The Next Game
Despite their mediocre record so far, Adamson will be a tough nut to crack. They have shooters (Gonzalgo and Agustin) and mobile big men (Galinato, Colina) and a good point guard in Canada. Their coach knows his stuff, and will use the confidence the Falcons gained with their victory over UE to full advantage. Expect the Falcons to give us a tough game. The Archers will have to maintain their excellent perimeter defense and guard the passing lanes. If the press can generate quick points and the Archers can force turnovers, the Archers can win handily. If it’s a slow, bump and grind game, Adamson will have a chance.
After four games, the Archers have played three of the toughest teams who were fancied to contend for the final 4: Ateneo, FEU, and UST. They have yet to play Adamson (July 24, 2pm), UP (July 26, 2pm), and UE (August 2, 4pm). UE will be smarting after their upset loss to Adamson, and will try to extract revenge after the Archers swept them in the championship playoffs last season. Adamson gave us some problems in the pre-season, winning one and dragging us into overtime before giving way. The Falcons were expected to finally live up to their potential under comebacking coach Leo Austria, and will be a difficult opponent with their renewed confidence.
Every game will be important, particularly in case of ties, and the Archers must keep the pedal to the floor to ensure that they have a favorable quotient. Every game will count as the tournament approaches the mid-point.
The upside – the team seems to have jelled nicely, and several players have shown that they can deliver during crunch time if called on. They are slowly but surely rounding off into form, and hopefully will peak early in the second round. At the end of the first round, 6-1 record is possible assuming sweep the remaining assignments, but a 5-2 record is probably realistic, if they hurdle Adamson and UP and fall to UE. That should be good for 2nd or 3rd place in the standings.