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New Look Green Archers Debut with Win Over Letran

The young De La Salle Green Archers emerged from their extended off season with a hair thin 77-76 victory over a similarly rebuilding Letran today at the 2010 Filoil Flying V Invitational Tournament at the San Juan Arena this afternoon. The marginal basket was scored by Joshua Webb, who scored on one of his signature daredevil drives with 42.7 seconds to go to give the Archers some breathing room at 77-74. A last ditch basket by Letran pegged the score to what it was at the end.

The game was close throughout, with at least 15 lead changes and 12 deadlocks. The largest lead of either team was 6 points, which was held by the Archers at 47-41 early in the third quarter, a margin which was duplicated by Letran when they threatened to pull away at 64-70. Neither team could gain any sort of momentum, with both teams committing turnovers aplenty.

The trademark Archer press resulted in multiple Letran errors, but unfortunately our players coughed up the ball almost as many times as the Knights. Many of our turnovers were in the form of offensive fouls, as the referees called it tight on both sides.

Newly minted Archer coach Dindo Pumaren surprised observers with his starting lineup of Simon Atkins, Ferdinand, Yutien Andrada, Webb, and rookie Luigi dela Paz. One of the more noticeable coaching differences between Franz and Dindo was the substitution patterns of Dindo, who shuffled his players more frequently than Franz.

Like us, Letran is in the midst of rebuilding, after losing 5 of their key players last year, including the sharpshooting Jazul and their center John Foronda. Their starting pg Dysam was new, and this contributed to the lack of fluidity in the Letran offense. The Archer backcourt press and occasional double team/trap forced the Letran guards into several errors, but the Alas brothers kept Letran in the game with their long shots and penetrations. Jaypee Belencion, who torched the Archers for 10 treys in the PCCL, was not as accurate, but still managed to tally 14 points before he fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Of our rookies, Aiki Herrera and Arnold Van Opstal did not play. Dela Paz gave a good account of himself, showing his versatility as a swingman and even putting in a spell as point guard. Jarelan Tampus was a bit overeager, and after committing 3 quick fouls on his former teammate Kevin Alas he was yanked from the floor. Letran paid particular attention to Almond Vosotros by assigning a much taller player to shadow him from the backcourt and cut off his passing angles. Nico Elorde fared better, accounting for several good passes inside to his teammates. Martin Reyes and Papot Paredes had some floor time, but were unable to do much against the taller Letran players.

Andrada was more active today, and paired with Simon for an eye-catching alley oop basket in the first half. Joel Tolentino had an off day, committing 3 quick fouls in the second quarter that relegated him to the bench for the rest of the game. Maui shone on defense, intercepting several long passes while serving as the anchor of the press. Joshua was scintillating today, tallying 27 points on a combination of long treys and explosive drives to the rim. He managed to minimize his tendency to commit traveling errors, and was his typical Energizer Bunny self as he bedeviled the Knight defense all game long.

Right off the tip, Ferdinand set out to prove that more can be expected from his this year as he was unusually active on both ends. He was repeatedly fouled on the way to the basket, but missed most of his foul shots. He was also instrumental in helping the Archers retake the lead from that 64-70 deficit with 4:31 to go in the game, when he scored on a short stab to cut the lead to 66-70, then with the score at 70-all, he tapped the loose ball to Simon for a lay-in.

Today was vintage Simon Atkins, dishing out pinpoint passes to teammates in the optimum position to score, chasing down the loose balls, forcing turnovers with the press, and taking whatever was offered to him with drives or long three point shots. He personally carried the Archers in the final 3 minutes, scoring 7 of the last 9 points before that Joshua drive cemented the win.

The finish was a nailbiter. After that final Joshua basket, Letran scored on a broken play with the shot clock winding down. With 17.6 seconds to go, Dindo called the final La Salle timeout. On the inbound, Simon got the ball to Sam in the frontcourt, and Sam was immediately triple teamed. Surprisingly no foul was called even theough the 3 Letran players were all over him. Jump ball, and the possession arrow gave the ball to Letran with 9.6 seconds to go. Although the Archer defense was inconsistent, it worked when it counted in the last few seconds. One of the Alas boys got the ball, frantically dribbled around the perimeter in a desperate attempt to find some shooting room, but failed and the buzzer sounded.

There are several similarities between this edition of the Green Archers and previoius teams. Dindo follows the pressure defense philosophy of Franz, and continued some of the old patterns of previous years. The team is likewise as well drilled as in previous years, showing crisp execution of plays such as the alley oop from Simon to Yutien and the high-low between Ferdinand and Maui. Another similarity, albeit unfortunate, is the bad foul shooting of the team. A glance at the scoresheet will show that the team missed more than 50% of their foul shots, something that must be addressed if they want to be competitive this year.

Today’s performance showed that the team still has a long way to go before it can achieve the teamwork and cohesion that will allow the Archers to vie for the UAAP championship. If they play the same way they did today during the UAAP, it might be difficult to retain that 6th place finish last year. Still, it’s an encouraging start. Lots of potential. Now, let’s hope that that potential gets actualized.