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La Salle vs UE Pregame Primer: Number Two in Green Archers’ sights

Arnold Van Opstal

After that gruelling hard-fought encounter plus the victory over the Blue Eagles, the De La Salle Green Archers do not have much time to relax and ponder on that wonderful win in front of the jampacked La Salle crowd yesterday in the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

In two days, the Green Archers are again on the court against a dangerous University of the East Red Warriors team sans burly center Charles Mammie and sharp shooting Ralf Olivares.  This is La Salle’s fifth game in the 2nd round of eliminations in the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball tournament and 12th overall for the whole season.

It is so far, so good for the Green Archers as they are still unbeaten in the 2nd round, winning all four assignments thus far.  A win over the Red Warriors on Wednesday will give La Salle a tie with FEU for 2nd place in the standings with an 8-4 win-loss card.  A loss however will bring the Green Archers to five defeats overall in the season and will share the same number of defeats with UST, Ateneo, and UE although they will still hold the 3rd place in the standings should the Green Archers lose on Wednesday with a 7-5 win-loss record.

Overconfidence will be La Salle’s biggest opponent come Wednesday.  As we all know, Mammie gave the Green Archer bigs a difficult time back in their first round encounter and almost dominated the rebounding department at will.  Olivares hit the big triple that gave UE the lead in the fourth quarter to complete the Red Warriors’ comeback in their 1st round encounter.  Without these two on Wednesday, it is expected that it will be much less of a worry for the Green Archers but they cannot relax completely.  La Salle still has to display that grit, composure and killer’s instinct to take this game from UE.

Remember that Roi Sumang is still there and will keep playing his heart out until the final buzzer.  This guy is capable of hitting all sorts of shots when he is in the zone so once again, the individual, as well as the help and recover defense of La Salle will be tested in the game.  UE bigs are also scrappy and mobile so La Salle cannot be a step slow in rebounding positioning since this will give UE offensive rebounding chances and 2nd chance points.  Bottomline, it will just be as if Mammie’s playing inside for UE if this scenario will happen.

I am also looking at Chris Javier to step up and carry more offensive load on Wednesday.  Javier can effectively go on pick and roll or pick and pop plays because of his range so his offense will be very handy for the Red Warriors.  He has been consistently performing well under Coach Boyzie Zamar so I will not be surprised with an increase in his touches on the offensive end for UE come Wednesday.  Adrian Santos is another player worth taking a look at because, like Rodney Brondial of Adamson, Santos has the capability to outwork La Salle’s bigs if not given the proper attention on rebounding plays.

Santos can also hit from mid-range so the Green Archers cannot leave him open and hanging in the perimeter to take and make open shots.  Ivan Hernandez also is another UE big that is also as active as Santos in the rebounding end so blocking these guys will be very important not to give them opportunities to have a big outing on Wednesday.  I am also expecting Sumido and Flores to have touches and contribute offensively for UE on Wednesday.  Sumido can consistently hit from the three-ball region while Flores can attack inside the paint to provide additional spark plugs for the Red Warriors.

I see post plays from UE coming from Javier, Noble and Casajeros (if he’s matched up with Vosotros) and aside from that, it will be either an isolation play for Sumang or a pick and roll, pick and pop for Sumang and the other UE bigs.  Dan Alberto is another spark plug that can hurt the Green Archers on Wednesday as he and Sumang is very cat quick in the open court as soon as UE will be able to corral those defensive rebounds.  Noble is “silently” picking up his points for the Red Warriors.  It may not be glaring but when you look at UE’s overall game production, Noble can pick up the slack missing from Mammie and Olivares.

Gino Jumao-as is another dark horse that has to be given a look on Wednesday.  He is an unpredictable player that you will never know what he can bring inside the court since he can easily transform from a hero to goat (and vice-versa) in his playing time on the floor.  The kid can score and create scoring opportunities for his teammates but his decision-making has always been suspect this season.  But I expect playing time also for him on Wednesday as he can be tasked to guard Vosotros or Montalbo because of his pesky attitude on defense along with Sumang and Alberto.

Arnold Van Opstal

I would like to see Arnold get back in his groove on Wednesday knowing (personal gut feel) that he can outwork the current UE bigs available on that game.  The same thing also goes with Jason and Norbert.  With that I think La Salle will definitely exploit UE’s thin front line on Wednesday before going into their usual default perimeter scoring in Almond, Kib, and LA.  Thomas will be available then so it gives another option for Coach Juno Sauler to match up effectively with UE’s guard corps.  Personally, I would like to see La Salle running more on the break on Wednesday.

Why did I say so?  I feel that with lesser options on offense for UE, there are more chances for La Salle to get those defensive boards and then run the break for easy baskets.  Coach Boyzie Zamar will also be left on a shorter and untested rotation so La Salle can also take advantage of it by running the break when there is an opportunity.

There should be some level of comfort and caution also in running the break because UE loves to play an up tempo game.  They even have a play set up for Javier waiting on the other side of the court once their opponent makes a basket.

UE is also a gritty team, just like what we saw in their game against NU, it was a fight to the finish for Coach Boyzie’s wards because they are also disciplined in their half-court defense.

I expect UE to play more zone defense formations to compensate Mammie’s absence.  The Red Warriors also used the zone defense to effectively chop down NU’s lead last Saturday only to succumb in the end since they lack the scoring options available for them.  It is either La Salle will have to run or score off the zone defense so that UE will be forced to go back playing man match-up defense, which goes well to La Salle’s advantage.

Do not even think that this will be an easy game for the Green Archers.  La Salle may very well have advantages on both ends of the floor but effort should still be put in place to take this game and take a step closer to a twice to beat advantage positioning for the Final Four.  No matter how it is advantageous line up wise, if the Green Archers will not put the work necessary for them to win it on Wednesday, this will be a close and dangerous game for Roi Sumang and the UE Red Warriors.  UE still is very much in contention for a Final Four spot so expect that they will do anything (it is an understatement, though) to win on Wednesday.