La Salle vs UST Finals Game 3 Pregame: Aim for #Gr8ness

Jeron Teng

As what Dean Voltaire Mistades told us last Wednesday in the graduation practice, there will be three things to look forward to as to why October 12, 2013 will be a special day. First, it is because of the commencement exercises in the morning. Second, it is because of the last day of Sikat II’s race in Australia wherein as of this writing, the car is in 3rd place in the competition and looking for a podium finish. Lastly, the Green Archers are aiming for its 8th UAAP men’s basketball championship. To add, it is Thomas Torres’ birthday also tomorrow (October 12) so it will be a fitting birthday celebration if the Green Archers win it all.

So a lot of discussions are still going around after four games this season between the Green Archers and the Growling Tigers but for me it will boil down to execution. At this point, both teams already know what the other team is capable of doing, especially after playing four games. It will all boil down as to which team can execute better. Coach Juno has been preaching all-season long that La Salle’s offense will always come from inside the paint, UST knows this as well. UST has been living from the perimeter all season long so what more has to be discussed?

The highlight of the press conferences and analyses all point out to foul trouble. Most basketball pundits have been saying that if UST will not go into foul trouble, they will have a chance to win the championship tomorrow. I agree to that and there is no problem with me but the other side of me is saying that does this mean that they are saying La Salle won game two just because of foul trouble?

I strongly believe that foul trouble is always part of the strategy in every game. Teams do not design plays for it but teams are making sure that the players are put in the best position for a good attacking play not just to make a basket but also hopefully, get some foul calls to change the offensive and defensive strategy of the opponent. Another school of thought suggests that foul trouble is part of the breaks of the game. It depends on how the referees call fouls which results to key players getting into foul trouble which can alter a team’s strategy in the game. That’s where the team depth and tactical know-how can come into play.

Back in game one, La Salle’s bigs were on foul trouble early but being a composed team from the second round until this point, the Green Archers were one possession away from taking that game and winning the championship last Saturday. Actually had the Green Archers converted those unchallenged gimmes from AVO, Almond, and Gab, the series would have been over last Saturday. My point is, yes, foul trouble can be a key but just like what I said, it pays to have a deep team and in-game tactical adjustments in order for you to survive and eventually win the ball game.

Personally, in order for UST to win tomorrow, Abdul should have a stellar game but the problem will be taking away precious possessions from UST’s main scorer, Jeric Teng. Just for a change, let Karim be the primary source of offense and let Jeric be the decoy or secondary offensive option and see what happens. Another thing will be if UST’s perimeter game will click just like in game one. But come to think of it again, UST had its best perimeter game back in game one but the Growling Tigers just managed to take game one by only one point and could have lost the game.

I also expect UST putting Mariano to have more offensive touches to try and put Jason Perkins into foul trouble too but we will see if that will happen. Nothing to add more for the Green Archers maybe welcoming back Matt Salem into play. Honestly, he gives Jason that much needed breather towards the end of quarters. Matt is also in instant offense guy for the Green Archers. Those three-pointers (maybe two per game) are important in finishing quarters every game. I just hope that Matt will not succumb into that finals pressure and maybe put up a la Ray Allen performance back in the 2008 NBA finals for Boston, hoisting and making one triple after another.

It will be important also to put UST away early in the game and not making it a close game. I am not saying that La Salle cannot win in close games but it helps if you can take away the crowd support of UST early in the game. It also relieves the pressure in winning since you are getting the job done early rather than leaving it late in the game. We cannot take away UST’s experience in dealing with pressure if of course if it is a close game, it becomes a 50-50 ball game with both teams capable of winning the ball game.

Bottom line, I will not make heart as the primary characteristic needed to win tomorrow’s game. I mean personally, “heart” has been used extensively in sports now these days especially from the Gilas stint in FIBA-Asia until now. I would like to put more emphasis on mental toughness for tomorrow’s game. Whichever team is more mentally tough, I expect that team to execute better and seamlessly, therefore, allowing that team to win the championship. Most will definitely say that UST has this but I also think La Salle has this too.

I expect both teams to come out firing and a lot of energy will be spent in the ball game so towards the end, when you are tired, it is mental toughness that will take a team over that championship hump. It will be an all out war tomorrow. For sure the Green Archers will have their arrows sharpened, ready to launch, and aiming for greatness targeting the school’s eighth UAAP men’s basketball championship.

As we sign off for the last pre-game basketball article for Season 76, whatever happens tomorrow, you made us all proud and it will always be Animo La Salle!

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