Let us not focus on the players this time. We have nothing but praises for our players, specially Jeron, Almond (our rediscovered superstar), Arnold, Jovet, Norbert, Thomas, the game but injured Yutien, and special mention to the player whom I felt should have been used much earlier in the tournament, Jarelan “Oda” Tampus. Playing him in this game proved some things. He has talent, and his being used is only to his and our advantage. Probably, playing him more often would contribute also to his overall well being as a player and as a person, so guys, let’s give this guy our all out support. He has nothing in mind when he’s on the court but to win games for us, even during the times when our team was weaker than this edition. Kudos to the players, and specially to you ODA. Oda is an upside for us.
First of all, we played the game undermanned. Even if Ateneo played without JP Erram (suspension), he was not as much of a loss to them as that of our acknowledged superstar and leader, L.A. Revilla. Also, Yutien played limited minutes but what a trooper he was. He was still playing hurt and no one saw it but those close to the bench, when he asked to substituted immediately after a play. He even missed one of his patented under goal stabs. He was just off timing in this game because of his absence due to injury.
Having said that we were undermanned, our game plan (drawn up by our coaches), was more crucial in winning this game. I think on an overall basis, the game plan was as good as it was going to get. Except that it did not include one Ryan Buenafe. We were prepared for Slaughter, we expected the consistent performances of Salva and Ravena, but Buenafe went berserk on us because of two things:
1. The double team man was his guard. and
2 They assigned Jeron Teng to guard him (he is not our best defender)
Jeron is a super offensive player and it is to his credit that despite Buenafe scoring 24 points, mostly against him, he also came back with 22 points of his own, thus negating their duel. It was actually Almond Vosotros who did the most damage for us, not only in terms of points (20), but also the timing and the manner in which he threw up 3-point shot after three-point shot. The three-pointers have become automatic to him now. This is the plus side of LA being injured. Almond has stepped into his shoes. Imagine when LA comes back, we now have two more guards to rely on, Almond and Oda. This game may have been lost, but the upside in the future is tremendous.
We had to play a PERFECT game Saturday to beat Ateneo, but we did not. I think we actually played well enough to beat other teams, but not Ateneo, and not last Saturday when they were shooting the lights out from inside and outside. It was really their game, their night. We offer no excuses for losses. We lost that one plain and simple. But we could have made it a fight to the end (just like the first game). I felt however, that the coaching staff did not execute their role optimally in this game. No finger pointing though. As with the players, the coaching staff is also transitioning in. So, its really, as the Green Mind pointed out, “Growing Pains” of our team.
Case in point. With 4:00 minutes to go in the third quarter, Jeron and Oda running berserk, and having been instrumental in cutting the lead down to two, 31-33, both men were pulled out. That practically destroyed our momentum. Ateneo came back with a 6 point blast to restore the lead to 8. Realizing the error, Jeron was placed back in with 3:00 minutes to go, but the momentum shifted, and Jeron lost the streak. Game over from there. Like I said, the Ateneo line up is FORMIDABLE, and nothing less that a perfect game could have beaten them last Saturday. They only needed that slight lapse to seal our fate.
But don’t despair because of this game Archers. We are still very much in the Final Four hunt and we have a slight inside track on it, with NU losing to FEU last Sunday. Our fate is very much in our hands. We have to beat NU and of course the other cellar dwellers, and even if assuming that we lose to FEU, we are in the Final Four. Resting LA Revilla was a good move. We need him if we enter the Final Four.
For the Coaching Staff, we understand. We don’t blame you. We still lack some material, specially when our best materials are injured. We can also only plan as much, with limited material due to injuries. We also understand that the strategy was not limited to this game. It was to ensure a better than average chance to enter the Final Four, our initial goal this season. So you are still doing a good job.
But as is the players’, the coaching staff should also just relax. We felt their tension. Well, coaching is a very tense job, and coaching for La Salle is probably unbearable. But as with our players free throw shooting, your strategy and execution should also be automatic when situations arise. For instance, we know you were probably preserving Jeron and Oda for the long run, as they were clicking, but the timing was off when you replaced them in the third quarter. This, I feel, was really the turning point of the game.
We have a good team now. A team worth watching. They come back against ANYONE, including powerhouse teams like Ateneo. Personally, I don’t mind losing, as long as it was a dogfight and our conquerors know it. Our material is ALMOST there. Jeron and LA ARE the acknowledged go to guys. We now have a third in Almond Vosotros. The other players are supporting well, specially on defense. We rediscovered Oda Tampus. So if we lose this year, well, we really lost. No excuses that our material wasn’t right. And as La Sallites, we should offer none.
To the coaching staff, it was still a good job. This team was not like this last year. This is a turn around team. The material is practically the same with the addition of Jeron, but this years coaches use them more effectively. They understand the tools, and they are trying to use them to the best of their potentials. The are now rediscovering that there are more tools in the toolbox than they first evaluated, so there. This is a long term program, not a sprint. We are getting there. The only advise that I can actually give is this. Just RELAX!!!!!!!! It is, after all, just a game.