The View From the Armchair: Game 8 vs UE
The Green Archers triumphed over the UE Warriors at the start of the second round yesterday, dominating UE for most of the 2nd half to romp to a 70-61 victory yesterday at the Araneta Coliseum. JV led the Archers’ charge with 25 points after coming off a so-so performance in the previous game against the same team. The Archer bench also came through with 34 points to ably support the starters. With the win, the Archers stayed in second place with a 6-win, 2 loss record, while dropping UE to 4-4. Marko and Simon, two of the Archers who were injured in the first game, did not play. Marko is out for the season, but came to Araneta to lend his support. Simon, still plagued with headaches after his head bounced on the floor, watched the game on tv.
A slow start but great middle and ending kick
As in the first game, the first few minutes were played at a frenetic pace, driven by the nervous energy in the high-stakes game. Again, UE led the way at the start, building as much as a 7 point lead at before ending the quarter at 15-12. The Archers stepped up their offensive game and continued to muzzle UE’s gunners in the second quarter to finish the first half ahead by 6 at 36-30. UE opened the second half with an 8-2 run to tie the game at 38-all. Following a Franz timeout, the Archers turned it on to open a double digit lead while holding UE to 8 points for the rest of the quarter. The final quarter was anticlimactic, as the Archers contented themselves with matching UE, 17-15 to close off the win. The Archers held the main UE shooters to a combined 25 points, as the Archers harrassed Reyes, Zamar, Lingganay, and Martinez on the dribble, went around their screens, and forced them into hurried shots. Among the UE big men, only Llagas had any success, scoring 11 points. Espiritu and Thiele had miserable a night as each was hounded into 1/7 shooting from the field for a total of only 8 points from the two UE frontliners.
The four day rest seemed to have recharded the Green Archers, as they were more organized and composed on offense. The 3point shot returned as a main weapon, with the Archers going 6/15, led by JV with 3, James, Peejay, and Rico with one each. The Archers sank 20 out of 54 two point attempts, led by the accurate sniping of JV (5/8) and James (3/6). Although Rico scored 11 points, it came on 1/6 shooting on 2pointers. JV and Rico were coincidentally the only players to have scored in double figures and who were awarded foul throws. JV was perfect, sinking all 6 of his tries, while Rico made 6 out of 8. Peejay narrowly missed hitting in double figures with 9. The tv sportscasters commented that whenever Peejay scores 7 or more points, the Archers win. Interesting bit of trivia, but I wouldn’t use Peejay’s score as the indicator of whether the Archers will win or lose a game. They will win or lose as a team.
The Archers continued their stranglehold on the UE offensive machinery, limiting the Warriors to 61 points in another low scoring game. The defensive pressure was consistent throughout the game, with UE only able to 15 points in the first, second, and fourth quarters and 16 in the third. So effective was the defense that the Archers held UE to 2 points in the first 6:30 of the 4th quarter while they pulled away to put the game out of reach. UE managed to put up 13 points in the last 3 1/2 minutes of the game, but the game outcome had already been decided by then.
The Archers successfully covered the passing lanes, disrupting many of the inside passes and forcing the UE bigs outside to receive the ball. The perimeter defense was excellent, preventing many of the open 3 pointers that UE made in the previous game. UE connected on only 4 out of 14 3pointers. The interior defense of Rico, Maui, James, Jovet, and Jwalsh also made it difficult for Espiritu, Llagas, and Thiele to get their points inside. In particular, Espiritu was harassed into an ineffective 3 points on 1/7 fg shooting. Despite being outsized by the UE frontline, Maui anchored the inside defense with 2 blocks.
The active defense of La Salle netted the Archers more fastbreak points at 22-15, and forced UE to commit more turnovers at 21. We lost the rebounding battle, 40-48, as Franz played smallball for most of the game. Jwalsh played only 11 minutes, and Ferdinand was kept on the bench to allow the Archers to match the fast pace of UE. The Archers played better team ball, and this was reflected in a better assist numbers, 14-9.
What was different yesterday compared to their previous game against UE was the confidence and composure of the boys despite UE’s hot start. They never deviated from the game plan, and played their roles to the hilt.
The Rookie Watch
This was another good game for the rookies, particularly LA and Maui. LA made the most of his 20 minutes on the floor with 6 points, 6 rebounds (2 offensive), 4 assists, before fouling out. While he logged 3 turnovers, he committed these while playing aggressively, something that Franz puts a premium on. Maui played the most minutes at 29, and tallied 4 points, 4 boards, 4 assists, and 2 blocks. Great all-around game from this rookie. Jovet played only for 8 minutes, but contributed with his 4 points on a 50% clip from the floor while bodying up on the UE big men. Joshua started the game, played for 4 minutes, and grabbed one 1 offensive rebound. Hyram saw action for 8 minutes in helping LA and JV in the ball handling and distribution chores. He finished with 1 rebound and 1 assist.
What needs work
The Archers will need to pay a little more attention and keep their presence of mind when inbounding the ball under pressure. Two of those inbound pases after a UE basket were intercepted and turned into points by the Warriors.
Rico’s inside game needs to improve. He’s a player with the height, length, and hops to have his way inside the paint. Yet whenever he goes up for an inside shot, it’s usually a case of “tirang takot”. He seems to go up without the conviction that he can make the shot, complicates things with his attempts to elude the block, and usually either is blocked or gets off an ugly shot that doesn’t go in. I wonder if it would be possible to get someone to train him in how to operate in the paint. He relies mostly on his jumpshot, and has yet to develop a back to the basket move or a hook. Rico also has to learn to move without the ball, to get into scoring position in much the same way our rookies Maui and Jovet are able to do. Right now, he plays more or less as a small forward, receiving the ball on the perimeter and either trying to dribble drive or hoisting those 3pointers. Rico, please play your height. You’ll be able to accomplish so much more when you realize just how tall and skilled you are.
First of all, the planning and preparation of the coaches. They worked on the players’ mindset, giving them confidence that if they stick to the system and execute the game plan, they would be victorious. Back to Archer ball basics. And it worked.
After having seen the best of the UE game, the coaches planned their countermeasures. UE played the same game as last time, probably figuring that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The La Salle changes were subtle, but threw UE off its game that had worked so well last Saturday. The adjustments were many: attacking the high screens, guarding the passing lanes, breaking down the UE perimeter defense that had shackled JV in the past, clogging the lane, getting our bigs to move without the ball, find the holes in the defense, and get the ball to the open man. The defense turned UE into a jumpshooting team which could not duplicate their uncanny accuracy in the first round.
The in-game coaching of Franz kept the Archers feet firmly planted on the ground and they maintained their composure even though UE made a run to tie it at 38-all. A Franz timeout pushed the lead up to double digits, which UE never seriously threatened after that telling sequence of plays. Great work by the coaching staff and the players.
In the last two games, he Archers were tried and tested under adversity, against an opponent seeking revenge for last year’s humiliation in the finals. They learned from their loss, meticulously prepared for UE, and executed the plan to a ‘t’. This should augur well for the rest of the season.