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Game Reaction: Green Archers vs Blue Eagles

thomas torresFor this edition’s game reaction, I will try to reverse it by putting first the bad things that happened in the game last Sunday before discussing the good things.  I will follow the same trend that happened to our beloved Green Archers last Sunday.  I know this may be a bit too late but still, it is taking a good look whether if you are still on a high or not on La Salle’s big win last Sunday over Ateneo (in which I hope all of you are not already).

The Bad:
Personally, there was just too much dribble drive penetration for La Salle in the first half of play.  Ateneo ran three identical plays in the first half where the big guys are stacked up at the top posing screens and then once the point guard picks the big guy to get the ball (whether Newsome or Buenafe), those two big guys can either play pick and roll or an isolation play attacking to the basket.  This play suited up very well on Newsome and Buenafe because both can shoot from the outside and can be creative enough to get points by attacking the paint.

Yes, you may laugh about it when I said Buenafe can get points by attacking the basket but yes, it is true.  Buenafe can attack the basket despite his frame since at times, he is faster than his defender, which is normally a power forward of the opposing team and remember that Buenafe is a natural small forward so it will be normal for him to get by his defenders playing the power forward position.  Newsome on the other hand, took advantage by constantly attacking on his strong side, which is the right side and he made a rich life out of it in the first half.

Newsome ended up scoring 18 big points at the half which triggered Boss Danding giving a small pep talk to Jeron Teng once the Archers were out from the dugout.  Boss Danding was talking to Jeron while pointing the points scored by Newsome at the Mall of Asia Arena’s gigantic scoreboard.  Ateneo was also very comfortable running their sets in the first half.  Personally, there was no defensive pressure at all from La Salle.  Ateneo was very confident whether they take the jump shot or taking it inside the paint.

In the other end, Elorde and Tiongson always made it a point for Thomas to make it hard for him to set up La Salle’s plays.  Elorde and Tiongson pick up Thomas three-fourths-court along the way and it became successful since La Salle was forced to throw up ill-advised attempts and it seemed that the Green Archers were slow to decide where to put the ball in.  The Green Archers tried swinging the ball from side to side in the first half but they could not find a way to get a good look for the big guys for a perfect position down low.

Summing up, Ateneo was able to perform and implement their system in the first half.  The spacing for their shooters was good.  La Salle was too conscious of the kick out passes, coupled with poor individual defence allowing Buenafe and Newsome to take it inside at will; everything was really going well for Ateneo at that point.  I was already telling myself that if La Salle wants to win, it should start with the individual defence not allowing Ateneo’s players to dribble penetrate the lane very easily.  Another thing I was saying to myself was putting pressure on Ateneo’s guards so as not to make them comfortable in their half court sets.

Just like what I wrote on my pre-game notes last week, every time Ateneo gets the defensive rebound or get the ball via turnover, they will always look to run and they just did also in the first half.  La Salle was left with no fast break points in the first half compared to Ateneo’s nine.  Take note that Ateneo also has 18 turnover points off La Salle’s 10 turnovers in the first half.  The pressure and aggressiveness of Ateneo was just too much for La Salle to handle in the first half and everything seemed to be not going for La Salle’s way.

The Good:
Then there came a different La Salle bunch at the second half.  In the third quarter, everyone noticed that Luigi De La Paz hit consecutive jumpers to set the tone for La Salle’s offense in the third quarter.  Personally, that was the start of better things as far as the Green Archers’ offense was concerned.  Almond also hit jumpers which allowed Ateneo to be more conscious in La Salle’s perimeter game from then on.

Floor spacing was much better, allowing Arnold, Norbert, and Jason to seal their defenders inside.  We all know what happened next as Erram and Golla fouled out, Tolentino was helpless trying to stop La Salle’s inside game.  Ateneo adjusted somewhat by putting Buenafe at center but it did not work as well.  Ateneo’s offense became stagnant and it reflected lacking an individual player that bails them all the time in the mold of Kiefer Ravena.  Buenafe and Tiongson tried to carry the offensive cudgels but it was not enough.

I loved the way La Salle’s guards pressed in the second half mainly Thomas Torres.  He was being pressed by Tiongson and Elorde the whole first half and come second half, it was his turn to put pressure to Elorde and Tiongson on the defensive end.  It reduced Ateneo’s ball movement and more often, they ended up with one on one shot attempts compared in the first half that Ateneo was getting baskets through efficient set plays.

In spite of Ateneo fighting hard, it was just obvious that life will be difficult for them without their two natural centers.  Arnold and Jason just took right in the heart of Ateneo’s defense.  Both had and-1 plays in the quarter which proved a double black-eye for the Blue Eagles because La Salle’s inside guys worked hard to get baskets and at the same time, it pushed Ateneo’s big guys to foul out in the game.  As with the Green Archers’ aggressiveness increased, so as their confidence in managing the game.

I was also happy to see Jeron become a willing passer in crucial situations of the game instead of him forcing things inside.  There were instances wherein there were shooters waiting at the corners but Jeron was taking it bull strong inside the paint with failed attempts.  Probably Luigi De La Paz’s biggest basket of the game came from Jeron’s pass then Newsome tried to help on his dribble penetration.  It was really nice seeing the team trust each other in such crucial, tight game situations.

It was also the turn of the Green Archers to stamp their own pick and roll game to Ateneo.  It was good to see Arnold rolling strong to the basket regardless he gets the ball or not after setting up the screen.  In his and-1 play getting Thomas Torres’ layup shot blocked by Pessumal (if I’m not mistaken), Arnold’s rolling to the basket instincts out of the pick and roll paid off as he got a continuation basket as the rebound fell to him and the opportunity of an easy second chance basket appeared in front of him.

Final Thoughts:
It was the aggressiveness and composure of the two teams in either half which brought both teams success in the game.  Ateneo was aggressive and composed in the first half while it was La Salle’s turn to bring those in the second half.  The problem for Ateneo was the lack of offensive options available once they were not able to execute their half court plays.  For the Green Archers, once they became aggressive, both inside and outside offense worked wonders for them.

Somewhat I can also say that Elorde and Tiongson did not expect that La Salle’s guard corps can give that tough time for them getting their feel for the game and level of comfort in the second half.  I just hope that the Green Archers will bring that type of tough pressure for the whole 40 minutes of the game just to put away their opponents early, get a strong start rather than playing catch up in the end because it does not work this way all the time especially facing FEU, UE, and NU.

Both sides missed key players and I do not think missing players on both sides should be given a big deal on the result of this game because remember college basketball is all about forming a team capable of winning games despite missing players in the rotation.  Good coaching adjustments had to be credited to La Salle’s coaching staff stopping key Ateneo half court sets that burned La Salle in the first half.  Ateneo tried running the sets again but this time the Green Archers were able to adjust by proper switching on their man assignments and help/recover defence.

It was a good character win for the Green Archers going into their tougher stretch this season as they will face FEU, UE, Adamson, and NU to end up the first round.  There are still lots of room to improve and of course, it will be interesting to see surprises from our coaching staff as to who will come out and deliver big plays for the team in those next four games.  The ride is just getting rougher aiming for the Final Four spot but it will be much more fun to see how the Green Archers will transform to a more polished team enough to overcome these upcoming rough obstacles ahead in UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball competition.