Pregame Primer: Green Archers vs Blue Eagles

jason perkinsAt last, the battle royal begins again this season.

On Sunday, the world of La Salle and Ateneo will stop for two hours (or more, depending on the game) to watch and keep track in their annual bragging rights in the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball match up.  For the past two weeks, most of the discussions that I had with my DLSU friends and colleagues center on “I hope Kiefer plays on Sunday so that the Ateneans won’t use it as an excuse if we beat them.”

First and foremost, personally, it will be better to have an attitude that we take this win regardless if Kiefer plays or not because it is not La Salle’s fault in case Kiefer does not play on Sunday (in which I believe that he will play).  It is not La Salle’s fault that Ateneo will not have Kiefer (just in case) on Sunday.  Whether Ateneo will use that as an excuse, I do not really care at all because with the type of competition right now this season in the UAAP, every win is important, especially that you only have 14 games to get into postseason play.

So much for the drama off the court, let’s get down to the game aspect itself.  So far, we have seen Coach Bo Perasol’s system which predicates on the drive and kick or perimeter movement system.  During our last match-up against Ateneo in FilOil, it was Christmas in June for the Blue Eagles as they shot impeccably from the field in that game with their open shots coming from ball rotations once Kiefer got deep in the paint either by dribble penetration or by post up (since we did not elect to double him most of the time at the post in that game).

Kiefer got deep in the post since his guards during that FilOil game was either Thomas or Almond who were relatively smaller so Kiefer was able to back down until DLSU was forced to double since Kiefer was already in a good scoring position down low.  This resulted to Ateneo open threes and Frank Golla’s mid-range at the top jumpers.  It will be interesting to see how DLSU will adjust this time around since Thomas and Almond are integral parts of Coach Juno’s rotation.

In Ateneo’s past two games, it was Buenafe who’s been lagging at the post and serving as the primary option on offense for the Blue Eagles.  If there will be no double teams from the opponent, Ryan will make his move and look to score.  Otherwise, the same thing will happen, ball will move around the perimeter to the waiting players and if they are open, they will take the shot, otherwise, find another option to score.  Newsome’s been posting up as well and it will be interesting to see who will Perkins pick up since I see him defending Newsome or Buenafe at times.

Teng’s defense will also be tested once again since Buenafe’s having a real good time facing La Salle.  It seems that Ryan’s got the extra motivation in there playing well every time he faces the Green Archers.  It will be better if Teng can force Buenafe to play defense on the other end too and maybe force him into foul trouble so just not to get comfortable on his offense.  To be honest, I feel Buenafe’s been more effective and dangerous in the face up game compared to when he is posting up.

I hope to see continuous adjustments from DLSU especially on decision-making in offense.  I expect Ateneo to focus on full-denial of the entry passes (as what the other teams are also doing against DLSU going back to FilOil games) so ball movement and decision-making from the guards will be crucial on how to be creative in setting up Norbert, Arnold, and Jason at the low block.  It will also be better if Norbert and Arnold use the board more once they put up their shots inside.  Perkins has been very good using the board as his best friend on offense which makes him tougher to stop down low.

I personally consider those misses inside the paint crucial especially if Norbert, Arnold, and Jason are making those attempts in one on one situation because it is DLSU’s primary option on offense.  If for Ateneo, it is the guards and wing who posts up, for DLSU, it is the 4’s and the 5’s posting up.  Same system goes, if there’s no double, make the move and go for the shot.  Otherwise, rotate the ball for a better scoring position from side to side.

I also expect Ateneo to pressure our guards more to make it tough for La Salle to set up its offense.  I hope we don’t commit lousy ball handling and passing turnovers especially from Thomas, Almond, and Robert who will possibly be the primary ball handlers on Sunday.  Ateneo’s guards can run and make easy baskets off turnovers so it is dangerous to give turnovers and possessions to them coming from our back court turnovers.

Help and recover defense for DLSU will be crucial also in this game in order for Ateneo not to get clean looks from the perimeter.  Right now, Ateneo gets its offense going from the perimeter to their front line so it is important not to give them good looks and make them comfortable again in their shooting.  As much as possible, make them attempt challenged shots.  For as long as Ateneo takes challenged jumpers and does not get dribble penetrations inside, La Salle has a good chance of winning this game.

JP Erram’s back in harness and his defense and rebounding cannot be discounted.  He’s got that perimeter jumper going for him (as most of the Ateneo players have right now, even Gwyane Capacio’s now into shooting threes all of a sudden) so it will be important as well not to give so much space for him the take the jumper.  Norbert and Arnold should be prepared of Erram’s shot blocking ability and if they can get him into foul trouble too, it will be a plus for DLSU in the game.

More importantly, in a game with this type of magnitude, composure is very important and will play a vital role in getting a win on Sunday.  Ateneo has the championship experience and I expect them to play composed on Sunday.  I hope that the boys will play more composed so as execution of plays will be better, the thought process on every play will also be better, resulting to better chances of snatching a win and snapping the Green Archers’ losing streak to Ateneo.

I think that it is in the composure part Ateneo has been beating La Salle for the past couple of years.  That confidence in them and in their system allows them to get out with a win regardless of the circumstances that they are facing.  Remember in last year’s final four encounter, DLSU led all the way only to surrender that lead in the 4th quarter and eventually yielding the game to the Blue Eagles.  That’s the reason why if DLSU can play more composed and relaxed basketball on Sunday, it can be the biggest intangible that can propel DLSU to victory more than the strategies set by both teams.

As everyone has seen through the years, the level of play in an Ateneo-La Salle game goes twice, thrice notches higher and you will see players who seldom make an impact suddenly perform superbly big plays which transfer them into the immortal memory of each school’s basketball history.  For La Salle, I am honestly having a hard time picking who that player could be because of how the team’s rotation looked like in the past two games.

If all five DLSU starters will be in double-figures I think it will be enough to propel the Green Archers to their second win this season.  Otherwise, I hope De La Paz, Reyes, Tampus, Bolick, and/or Montalbo to have a big game not just in points but more importantly in the hustle and energy department which helps out a lot in big games, especially in a rivalry game like this one.  For Ateneo, I expect Ravena and Buenafe to have big games but limiting each to below 20 points will be a big factor already and not allowing Ateneo’s other players to have a big game in scoring.

Ateneo will definitely go all-out on Sunday, not just because it is against La Salle but because they want to get that 1st win of the season for them.  La Salle must perform in a level higher on what Ateneo will show on Sunday to prevent having identical 1-2 win-loss cards after Sunday’s game.  Regardless of the line ups, it has always been proven that in an Ateneo-La Salle game, statistics are thrown out of the window.  This is always a game where school pride and bragging rights are in the top of list in the keys to winning the game.

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