Pregame: Green Archers vs Blue Eagles
The picture says it all. Yes it’s been that long. The last time La Salle won over Ateneo in an elimination match, it was on Sept 15, 2005 when the Green Archers manhandled the Blue Eagles to the tune of 72-55 en route to a 4-0 season sweep against their rivals that season. Since then, the Archers have only managed to defeat them in 3 playoff matches with the last one being on Sept 30, 2007 when we won our “redemption” championship.Since then, Ateneo has dominated us in the last couple of years. With size, talent and experience still favoring the Eagles this season, the odds are still stacked against the Archers’ finally ending this long head-to-head losing streak.
The Blue Eagles are coming off two successive wins after dropping their initial outing against FEU while we racked up a win-loss-win in that same stretch of games. Despite the loss of Al-Husseini, Reyes and Baclao, Ateneo still has enough talent to make a serious run for a rare three-peat crown. In their last two games, we witnessed how some of their players unexpectedly rose to the occasion especially when the game was on the line. In contrast, the Archers’ performance against NU has raised some concerns about the team’s consistency and ability to play well against the stronger teams.
Ateneo has the edge in the frontline and in the wings. For the past two seasons, the Archers simply had no answer to Al-Husseini who simply torched us from underneath and even the perimeter. He was a double-barreled threat who could score or dish off to an open teammate if double-teamed. Baclao was a steady force in the paint and on defense. Even with both gone, the Eagles still have Salva, Buenafe, Chua and rookies Escueta, Erram and Dela Cruz to man the front court, with Salva posing the biggest threat because of his versatility and size.
Our undersized big men must continue to be aggressive on both ends as well get out and run. If Papot can repeat his stellar performance last Sunday, especially on defense, this will give La Salle’s game the much needed boost in the low post. Still, Ateneo’s bulk and experience makes them an edge.
If our guards can get their game together, we have the edge at the backcourt. Monfort is cat-quick but he does not run the offense as well as Reyes. Without a solid low-post option, Salamat has had limited opportunities to slash his way to the basket. However, Ateneo has effectively employed the screen/roll offense several times in their first 3 games, so our defenses will have to be doubly alert to counteract this tactic. Long has developed into a threat from outside, and has shown an ability to take it inside as well while pressuring his man on the other end. Our backcourt of Joel, Simon, Almond, Luigi, and Sam will give the Blue Eagles some problems if they can settle into a groove early in the game by hitting their early shots, and successfully slowing the Ateneo offense by pressing the ballhandlers all the way.
In order to have a shot in beating Ateneo, the Archers should hit their shots from the outside to establish the threat from the long court. The Ateneo interior defense is just too good for the team to make headway down low. Even if Ateneo has shown in the past that it can break our trap defense, the team should still continue to press the ball carrier. If we can dictate an up-tempo pace and attack before the Ateneo defense is set, we have a shot.
It will be a tall order for the Green Archers this Saturday. They may or may not yet break this losing skid to Ateneo but definitely this team now has the right pieces to make it an intense and interesting ballgame. And they have shown that the famed Green Archer fighting spirit burns bright in them. It will be a battle till the final buzzer. Win or lose, this team will show why they deserve to carry the name “Green Archers”.