The worst case scenario happened. The NU Bulldogs slammed the door on the Archers’ playoff hopes with a 61-63 reversal that was as painful as the first non-appearance in the playoffs in the Pumaren coaching era. With this loss, the UST-UE game result became immaterial because UST has the final playoff berth.
Injury woes told on the Archers. Arvie was a scratch due to illness, and Yutien limped off the court due to a sprain early in the game. He was followed by Kish, and for the remainder of the first half our frontline consisted of Jovet, Maui, Ferdinand, and James.
The Archers came out curiously flat and seemed to lack intensity, allowing NU to keep pace in a close game and eventually eke out the close win. It was as if the Archers were not convinced they could win, and played conservatively instead of pulling out all the stops and showing the urgency that the situation called for.
The uncertainty showed in questionable shot selections from the outside, particularly a hurried Kish shot from the elbow with at least 12 seconds left on the shot clock in the second half and the Archers ahead at 52-51, and a James takeoff for a shot which he instead passed back to an NU Bulldog for a turnover. The lack of confidence also resulted in a very low field goal percentage.
Among the veterans, only Peejay and Bader were able to make any sort of impact. Peejay scored at least 15 points on a variety of jumpers and drives, but went cold midway through the 4th. Bader had a couple of turnovers but made up for them by aggressive defending and driving into the NU defense for layups. He also managed a rare triple. James scored a couple of points, but was unable to make any significant contribution. Ferdinand showed a lot of energy in rebounding, but was ineffective in keeping NU away from the offensive glass.
A great defensive play unfortunately turned into a basket for NU. With less than 10 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, Kish emphatically blocked an NU shot, and the ball went straight to a Bulldog on the perimeter, who sank the last gasp trey as the buzzer sounded to end the quarter.
In the last minute, the Archers went on a fouling spree to force NU to the stripe. NU obliged by missing at least 3 fts, but these were offset by Joshua’s 2 missed fts and the last NU ft miss where they were able to get the offensive rebound. Poor positioning or inattention? Whatever it was, NU retained possession and was able to kill whatever little there was left on the game clock.
Free throws helped do the Archers in. In the first half alone, they missed 13 out of 20 attempts. Joshua missed 2 free throws during the crucial closing stretch that could have tied the game.
The team learned lots of lessons the hard way this season. Hope they can translate all that learning into something positive next season.
In the meantime, let us support the Lady and Junior Archers as they are still in contention this season. No Matter What, Animo La Salle All the Way!