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Greenstincts: Two steps forward, One step back

Lack of mental focus and consistency have been blamed for the head-scratching performances of the De La Salle Green Archers. Their previous 70-74 loss to the FEU Tamaraws and uninspired win against the winless Adamson Soaring Falcons are not good signs especially heading into the crucial phase of the tournament.

No Lasallian supporter would be faulted for expecting a higher winning margin, but with the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four still up for grabs, the 66-57 victory was nonetheless just as important.

It might be mere coincidence that this two-game dilemma happened in the thick of finals week of the first trimestral. You can insert all education-related jokes about athletes you want, but these “student-athletes”, from August 26 to September 2 to be precise, do have to balance their studies, exams and projects with the rigors of the UAAP and defending the basketball title.

The Archers started the game wanting in energy, settling for jumpers instead of attacking the paint against a very young Adamson squad. A quick 18-3 run turned an early 3-5 deficit into a huge 23-8 lead at the end for the first quarter. All La Salle starters contributed at least one field goal each with Jeron Teng leading the scoring with six while Almond Vosotros had five.

The next three quarters can be characterized like a roller-coaster with the hustle and energy of the Green and White squad indirectly proportional to the frustrations and emotions that the La Salle faithful had to endure.

After scoring 23 points with relative ease in the opening frame, La Salle went blank in the next period scoring only three field goals and four free throws while giving up 19 points to the Falcons.

The Green Archers bounced back after the intermission, determined to pull away from a nothing-to-lose Adamson squad. La Salle had four and-one opportunities but only managed to convert one of those bonus free throws to head into the fourth leading, 55-43.

The Falcons unleashed one last rally, trimming the DLSU lead 59-51 before the La Salle veterans, Teng, Vosotros and Jason Perkins combined for seven points to seal the Archer’s season sweep of Adamson Falcons.

Perkins scored 13 of his total 16 points in the second half to go along with the same number of rebounds. Jeron tallied 15 points, eight boards and six assists while Almond was the only other double-digit scorer with 12.

The race to the Final Four is heating up and for the Taft-based squad, there are no more easy games.

The Good
A win is a win is a win. No matter how you look at it, the DLSU win coupled with National University’s loss against University of the East meant that La Salle now shares the 2nd to 3rd spot with the Ateneo Blue Eagles with 8-3 records. Not all wins in a season can be glamorous or have blowout margins. La Salle’s eighth win is a step into the right direction going into the final three games of the elimination round.

The 19 turnovers were glaring factors in La Salle’s second round loss versus the FEU Tamaraws. Compared to the 18 turnovers committed by the team during first round match-up, DLSU was able to limit its errors to 14 while at the same time maximized the opportunity for easy baskets with 12 points off Adamson turnovers.

Despite slightly losing the rebounding battle 50-49, DLSU had a huge 17-2 advantage in second chance points allowing the team to dominate the inside battle despite making only one three-point attempt.

The Bad
Speaking of the rainbow country, the Green Archers seem to have solved their shooting woes during their past six games. Even in the team’s loss against FEU, our shooters were able to convert five from 22 attempts.

Lack of patience and execution led to the team taking 17 attempts while making only one. La Salle’s unbalanced offense made scoring in the post harder with Adamson using the zone to pack the paint, giving less space for Norbert Torres, Arnold Van Opstal and Jason Perkins to operate.

AVO, despite scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds was particularly frustrated by Adamson’s defense, picking-up three offensive fouls limiting his playing time to 17 minutes.

And the Worrying
Unlike in the first matchup, Coach Juno Sauler was not able to use his bench players because of the upset threat of the Soaring Falcons. Of the 13 non-starter points, excluding Arnold’s production, only Julian Sargent and Robert Bolick scored three points a piece.

After the return of AVO in the line-up against FEU, the contribution of rookie Prince Rivero is nowhere to be found. The former NCAA juniors MVP has scored two points in 11 combined minutes this past two games. Instead playing big all the time, maybe it’s time to mix things up by playing small ball. Take advantage of Rivero’s heft and post game against smaller forwards.

Four of the La Salle starting five played more than 30 minutes. Save for Kib Montalbo’s four points in 27 minutes, Jeron, Almond, Jason and Norbert accounted for 75% of the total offense and 34 of the total 49 rebounds. It is a good thing that out next match-up takes place in six days as the break is much needed luxury to prepare for the Santo Tomas Growling Tigers.

Rested bodies with clear and focused minds. The race to the Final Four is heating up and for the Taft-based squad, there are no more easy games. No win is guaranteed especially with their all of their opponents also looking to enter the tournament playoffs. The Lasallian community hopes that once the final papers, examinations and course grades are settled, the real Green Archers will show up. Armed and ready to win games and grab the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four. Animo La Salle!