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Sizing Up The Green Archers’ Opposition in UAAP Season 76 – Part 1

Arnold Van Opstal

Wins by the skins of their teeth, losses by a mile, a combined 70-point shootout between Jeron Teng and Ray-Ray Parks in a pulsating double-overtime game, an RR Garcia lay-up at the end of regulation that was initially counted and then rescinded, a Kiefer Ravena dunk on Karim Abdul, two game-winners on consecutive games (from almost the same spot) by Chris Javier, and ultimately, a fifth consecutive championship for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

If these highlights from the UAAP’s diamond season are any indication, it’s that the league’s 76th season (themed “Greatness Never Ends”) is bound to be more thrilling than the previous one. The DLSU Green Archers will be looking for their first UAAP title since 2007 after having made the Final Four last season.

But before we take a look at their chances of adding more hardware to the already decorated halls of the St. La Salle Building, let us first take a look at the seven other universities they will be facing and how they stack up against them.


UP Fighting Maroons

Falling behind by a huge margin, coming back late in the game, but ultimately falling short. This seems to be the tedious script that was followed by the UP Fighting Maroons last season, as Coach Ricky Dandan indeed had the right of it when he proclaimed at the start of the season that “playing UP will not immediately translate to a win.”

That did not, however, prevent them from losing thirteen of their fourteen games by an average margin of just 6.2 points, as the squad once more languished at the bottom of the standings. The fighting is indeed back with the Maroons, but how do you keep on fighting when you’ve lost eight of your veterans and have only five holdovers heading into Season 76?

1. Is this team going to make a lot of noise heading into this season?

The squad undoubtedly had a much better line-up last season when it featured a lot of battle-tested veterans, but that’s not to say that it will not parade any talented players this season. The squad still has the burly Raul Soyud, who normed a near double- double of 12 points and eight rebounds during the preseason. Former Green Archers Joseph Marata has apparently not lost his touch from long distance and has become the team’s leading scorer, averaging 13.4 points on 39% shooting. But even these additions and holdovers, they will be hard-pressed to overcome the loss of their veterans, and their rookies will no doubt take time to mature, so the noise that they will be making will be later rather than sooner.

2. How do they stack-up against the Green Archers?

Unlike the preseason, La Salle and UP never met during the Fil-Oil preseason tournament, so the barometer for how these measure up against each other will be their two meetings last UAAP season, which La Salle both won by five and seven points. The likes of Norbert Torres, Jason Perkins, and Arnold Van Opstal should be able to plow through the Maroon defense and corral those important boards, and if La Salle’s defense can clamp down on State U’s shooters, they should be able to topple them.


Despite a mass exodus of their senior players heading into this season, Dandan remains optimistic that his squad can remain competitive, but even that modest goal can be tough to pull off given his rag-tag line-up of new faces. But if the preseason was any indication, the real problem lies with their inability to score, as they averaged a tournament-worst 64.4 points per game. Marata and Soyud are the only legitimate scorers for this squad, but if a third option can consistently step up to the plate, say the comebacking Mikee Reyes or Julius Wong, then we may see them embody their moniker and remain competitive for some of their games.


UE Red Warriors

How did a squad that finished seventh last UAAP season end their preseason campaign with their head coach being carried aloft by his staff and players, and the rest of his wards whooping it up at the mouth of the Fil-Oil Arena, after having trampled no less than the NU Bulldogs for the title?

Take your pick from Coach Boysie Zamar, who is a master at getting the most out of his players, Roi Sumang, whose brilliance has catapulted him from being a prolific scorer to the best point guard in the UAAP capable of taking over games, and the addition of players like the Sierra Leone native Charles Mammie, Ralf Olivares, and the returning Lord Casajeros, who all turned in sterling performances during their magical run in the tournament.

1. Is this team as good as their preseason record indicates?

Zamar himself cautioned the people who are heaping praise upon his Warriors after bagging their second Fil-Oil title, saying that while these comments are flattering, they will not be content with just winning the preseason title. They might not exactly be able to replicate their 20-point drubbing of UST during the Fil-Oil elims or their conquest of the Bulldogs during the Finals, but with a coach pointing them in the right direction, a leader capable of strapping his team on his back, and a bevy of other players eager to help the team in whatever way they can, the Warriors will be right there in the thick of the race to the semis.

2. How do they stack-up against the Green Archers?

La Salle was riding high on the crest of a five-game winning streak during the pre-season, while the Warriors have won four straight. La Salle held an early eleven-point advantage anchored by a crisp offense, but it wasn’t long before the Warriors dragged them into a grind-it-out game. By the end of the game, Sumang had emerged as the game’s hero, the Warriors had ended La Salle’s winning run, and the Archers have committed a staggering 28 turnovers. Needless to say, taking care of the ball will be on Coach Juno Sauler’s priorities once La Salle squares off against the boys from Recto, along with putting down the defensive clamps on Sumang and keeping Mammie from getting into his favorite spots in the shaded lane and making him earn his points.


As he mapped out the game-winning play during their match against Ateneo last season, Zamar hollered that “whoever gets the ball has the biggest heart.” Sumang was quick to raise his hand and say, “Ako.” And during that play, he drove to the middle of the lane, drew four defenders, and dished to the corner to a wide open Chris Javier for the marginal basket. Sumang is indeed the heart and soul of this team, and with a supporting cast that features the likes of Mammie, Javier, Olivares, JM Noble, and Casajeros, and a blue-collar work ethic espoused by their mentor, this team is one of the most exciting to watch out for this Season 76.

Perhaps the only real deterrent for these Warriors are their relative inexperience in comparison to teams like UST, Ateneo, NU, and La Salle. This is a team that had hitherto never been labelled as a title favourite. But all those labels of them being bottom feeders and cellar-dwellers ended the moment they started stringing together those victories in the preseason, the moment they hoisted that Fil-Oil title. Now, with pressure and expectations weighing on their backs, can they perform at the same high level? Only Sumang and Co. can tell.


Adamson Soaring Falcons                                                              

During the first quarter of a game against the NU Bulldogs, Alex Nuyles was pulled out from the contest due to a nagging shoulder injury, thus prematurely ending the athletic wingman’s collegiate career. This is an image that was burned onto the minds of many an Adamson fan, as the team that only last year was a win shy of making the Last Dance lost steam and dropped nine of their last 11 games without their King Falcon.

His departure also marked the emptying of the King Falcon title for the Falcons, but the good news is that a couple of players have answered the call and are ready to become this team’s leader: sophomore Jericho Cruz and forward Rodney Brondial.

1. How will Ingrid Sewa impact this Adamson team?

A quick glance at the line-ups of the UAAP teams will tell you that the arms race between the schools is in full swing and that the league has gotten a lot taller in terms of the heft of the players that will be paraded this season, and Sewa is a testament to this claim. He averaged 12 markers and nine boards during their preseason campaign, but the impressive aspect of his game so far is his efficiency, as he makes 63% of his shots. His presence will likewise make opposing players think twice about slashing towards the rim and will beef up a frontline that has been bereft of warm bodies ever since Janus Lozada and Austin Manyara graduated.

2. How do they stack-up against the Green Archers?

After years of futility against the Falcons, La Salle swept Adamson in two meetings last UAAP season, with their last game ensuring them of a chance to contend for the last Final Four slot. Both of the games, however, have not been walks in the park for the Green Archers, and with Cruz improving his numbers in the preseason and the addition of Sewa, the Archers will be in for a fight with these Falcons. La Salle’s trump card, however, is its depth, which none of Austria’s players off the pine can match.


The Falcons will have to work hard on all departments in order for them to contend for one of the Final Four slots, but no one outside of Cruz, Brondial, and Sewa are bearing the cudgels for Austria’s troops. Ryan Monteclaro, who will now be holding quarterbacking duties for the Falcons, struggled during the preseason, as did gunner Roider Cabrera, who shot only 22%.  Together with Janses Rios, Harry Petilos, and Lloyd Abrigo, they will have to score in order for what looks like breakout seasons for Cruz and Brondial not to go down the drain.


FEU Tamaraws

Six minutes stood between the FEU Tamaraws and yet another Final Four appearance in the UAAP, and with it, a chance to bag their first title since the Arwind Santos, Denok Miranda, and Mark Isip towed the Morayta squad to their last championship in 2005.

But after a monumental collapse at the hands of the Green Archers, the 75th UAAP season ended with more questions and head-scratching than answers for these Tamaraws. Why was Season 73 MVP RR Garcia on the bench when La Salle made their run? Is Terrence Romeo now the team’s go-to guy? Will Coach Bert Flores be replaced after another underwhelming season? And here we are, mere days before the start of the season, and while some of these questions have already been answered, there are some that persist.

1. This is RR Garcia’s last season. Can he finally win a UAAP title?

I believe that Garcia’s best chance to win the UAAP crown was back in 2010, when he had the long-limbed Aldrech Ramos, Reil Cervantes, JR Cawaling, Paul Sanga, and Pipo Noundou as his teammates and Ateneo showed signs of vulnerability in defending their crown. And while he still has Terrence Romeo, Mike Tolomia, and Anthony Hargrove as his teammates, the door for him to win his first title has become narrower, although it remains ajar.

2. How do they stack-up against the Green Archers?

La Salle and FEU met three times last season, all of which were decided by single digits, with the Archers pocketing two of these meetings. The most pivotal of these was the do-or-die match for the last Final Four ticket, which was almost won by the Tamaraws before La Salle mounted a huge rally to overhaul a ten-point lead halfway through the payoff period. The loss of three big men means that the La Salle big men can patrol the shaded lane with ease and Jeron Teng can drive into the line for a bucket or two charities, and if they can limit the production of the three-headed monster of Garcia, Romeo, and Tolomia, they’ll be in a good position to beat the Tams.


Losing Russel Escoto to an ACL injury further decimated an already thin frontline after the graduation of the Bringas brothers, and their additions did nothing to blunt the impact of these losses, as they have instead chosen to further bolster their backcourt. But a line-up that boasts of RR Garcia, Terrence Romeo, Mike Tolomia, and Anthony Hargrove cannot be discounted to contend for a Final Four slot. Hargrove, Mark Belo, and Gryann Mendoza will have to jockey for every rebound in order for them to overcome their personnel losses up front. And whether they can take that next step with Coach Nash Racela and get back to the finals for the third time in the last four years remains to be seen.