The View From the Armchair – Final 4 vs FEU
The young and gallant Green Archers lost out to the bigger and more experienced FEU Tamaraws in overtime yesterday, 59-69 in their final 4 playoff to end up in 4th place. The Archers returned to the Final 4 after a one-year absence last year, and were bidding to upset the top-ranked Tams and force a sudden-death playoff. Since FEU had the twice-to-beat, the loss ended our season after 15 games. Prior to the start of the season, the Archers had not been expected to make it this far after fielding a lineup that consisted of 7 rookies and 4 sophomores.
The final margin did not reflect the tightness of the game, which was dominated by the green-and-white Archers from the second quarter on until the last 2 minutes of regulation. League MVP RR Garcia had a hot start in the first quarter where he scored 8 points on 4/5 shooting, but was held scoreless for the rest of the half by the tight marking of Simon, Joel, and Luigi who alternated in giving the FEU hotshot different defensive looks that prevented him from settling into his usual groove.
The Archers shrugged off the roughhouse tactics employed by the Tamaraws in the first half, which resulted in 14 fouls called on the Tams with 2 technicals and the ejection of Cawaling for tackling Simon at halfcourt. The physical game of the Tams boomeranged on them as the fouls mounted and their offense sputtered in the 2nd quarter where they were held to just 6 points while the Archers scored 20 to wrest the lead at the half, 32-26. To the credit of the Archers, they refused to be drawn into a brawl and focused on executing the game plan.
The perimeter defense of the Archers in the first half forced FEU to miss all of their 11 attempts from the 3point region while making only 11 out of their 30 fg attempts. The lead could have been bigger as the Archers missed 6 of their 14 fts awarded to them.
Although we were in control of the game at that point, the Tamaraws managed to outrebound the Archers 21-29 as they repeatedly capitalized on their height and heft advantage in the paint. What was particularly troubling was their ability to get 15 offensive boards in the first 2 quarters while we managed only 8.
In the 3rd quarter, the Tams made a determined effort to get back into the game, dropped the roughhousing and managed to keep pace with the Archers. FEU’s shooters started hitting their mark, making 6/13 fg attempts while they continued to dominate the boards, 8-15. We also failed to pull down any offensive rebounds in the quarter while FEU grabbed 4 of their misses. Spider carried the scoring load in that 10-minute stretch, tallying 8 out of our 12 points as only Yutien (3) and Simon (1) scored any points, but we still ended the quarter ahead by 4, 44-40.
At the start of the 4th quarter, the Tams made a determined effort to attack, but the Archers managed to fend off their efforts through timely hits by Jovet, Oda and Spider to take a 51-42 lead with 6:36 left in the quarter. With the finish line in sight, the pressure got to our players, and they managed to score only 4 more points the rest of the way. The Archers’ inexperience showed in their playing not to lose instead of continuing the aggressive play that allowed them to control the Tams. The tension again affected our ft shooting, resulting in only 5/11 of our attempts going in, the most notable was Joel’s airballing his 2nd attempt after badly missing the front-end of a pair. FEU finally hit their first 2 3pointers, the most telling of which was Sanga’s shot from way out to tie the score at 55-all with 27 seconds left in regulation. Coach Dindo called time, and in the ensuing play, Simon missed a jumper, Joel pulled down the rebound, but Jovet missed and the game went into overtime.
Noundou drew first blood in overtime on a shot in the paint, 55-57, before Yutien canned ½ fts. Sam’s only trey gave us the lead for the last time, 59-57 with 3:43 left. Romeo hit a 3pointer, Cervantes made 3 fts, and the Archers missed all their attempts in a virtual replay of their double overtime loss in the first round where the Archers crumbled in the last 2 minutes. Perhaps what did in the Archers’ offense in the extension period was their overreliance on the 3point shot which they attempted 6 times against only 2 tries from closer in.
Despite the loss, the Archers overachieved with their 4th place finish, beating last year’s 6th.
What went wrong
The most obvious was the atrocious free throw shooting. The Archers made only half of their total attempts, 18 out of 36. In regulation they made only 17 out of 32, and if you consider that the game went into overtime, any of those misses could have tilted the game in our favor.
Our undersized frontline (Maui-13, Jovet and Yutien with 8 each) managed to battle their bigger counterparts, but Cervantes had a monster rebounding game with 19 including 8 offensive rebounds, backed up by Ramos with 10 and Garcia with 9. For once we were outrebounded by a mile, 46-64. Missing in action was Papot, who played 14 minutes but failed to haul down any boards.
Our turnover total (19) was manageable, but Simon had a curiously off night with 7 after he had his pocket picked at least twice in the first half. Some careless passing also by Yutien and Jovet under pressure contributed to the tally.
Our 3point shooting took an early vacation, where we made only 3/29. In total, our team only attempted 67 times from the field, so 43% of our tries came from the 3point area. That’s probably quite high for any team, and if our shooters are missing both our 3point attempts and our free throws, we probably won’t score enough points to win even though our defense holds our opponents down. More offensive variety will be needed in the future if the Archers are to progress deeper into the playoffs next year.
What went right
The defense worked pretty well, holding the high-scoring Tamaraws to only 55 points in regulation. In particular, our perimeter defense allowed FEU to make only 3 triples out of their 22 tries, but unfortunately these were made in crunch time in the 4th quarter and overtime when it mattered most.
The Simon-Yutien 2-man passing play is excellent and a good example of teamwork at its best. Unfortunately it resulted in only 1 basket. Spider played a very controlled game and topscored with 15 points on 5/6 shooting from the field.
The rookie watch
It could be rookie jitters given the importance of the game, but Almond, Oda, and Papot all failed to make any sort of impact on the game. Only Luigi played his usual game, 5 points, one each of rebounds, steals, and assists.
Sam continued to struggle from afar, making only 1 out of 10 attempts from rainbow territory and ¼ from closer in and ½ from the stripe. Joel had the most minutes at pg, scored 6 points and pulled down 5 rebounds, but had a miserable shooting day on 2/10 from the field and only 1/6 from the free throw line. Yutien had his usual rebound tally, but also continued to struggle from the ft line with 3/6.
Gab, Nico, Martin, Aiki
The team acquitted itself well this season, overachieving despite having such a young lineup. With nobody having played out their eligibility, everyone can return next season. With one more year of playing together, the team can only improve. However, waiting in the wings are Norbert Torres, Arnold Van Opstal, Dan Sara, and possibly LA Revilla. This offseason will be spent in continuing to develop the players’ skills and evaluating who might make the lineup next season.
As many like to say, Season 74 begins today. So, it’s WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR! At least for the Green Archers.
But wait, our basketball season is not yet over – our Team B is currently playing in the FMC. They have an interesting game against CSB this Sunday. Our Women’s basketball team placed 4th and made it to the final 4 of the UAAP. Their playoff game is tomorrow, Saturday Sept. 18 against the top ranked FEU. Will our Lady Archers do what the Green Archers couldn’t do yesterday – beat FEU and force a sudden death playoff?
In the meantime, let’s watch and support our other varsity teams in the UAAP. There are a lot more sports up on the calendar, and in November the volleyball season starts. See you at the games!