The View from the Armchair: Game 9 vs Ateneo

We were owned, at least for this game. That aptly describes the result of our second loss against defending champion Ateneo to the tune of 65-81. The game was close only for one and a half quarters, but once the Blue Eagles pulled away to a double digit lead on a Monfort triple at 15-25, the Archers’ game went south.

What went right

Very little. The Archers were outhustled, outshot, outrebounded, and generally outplayed. But there were flashes of energy, the last of which saw the lead cut down to 13 at 50-63 early in the 4th quarter. But after a couple of baskets by Ateneo, the rally fizzled out and Ateneo coasted to the end, content to just match the Archers basket for basket. Peejay also continued his recovery from his shooting slump, firing away from long range for 16 points while making 50% of his shots. Joshua continued his scoring run against Ateneo with 13, and Maui contributed 10 markers after being more aggressive on offense.

If the game was rated based on quarters won, surprisingly, the Archers actually won the 3rd quarter and tied Ateneo in the 4th while losing the first two. Unfortunately, the game was won in the first half when the Blue Eagles built a 17point lead at 44-27. In the 2nd half, they just matched the Archers to keep them at bay.

What didn’t work

The defense. Rabeh Al-Husseini got away for 26 points, scoring on jumpers from close range. The boxing out efforts of the Archers also failed to keep Ateneo away from the shaded lane, and they used their height advantage to tip in several missed shots. The press, while it generated a few turnovers early, failed to keep Ateneo at bay. Ateneo exploited their scouting of the Archer defense for open shots using crisp, quick passing plays to find the open areas, where a waiting Ateneo shooter would almost always be positioned. Their almost 59% shooting clip from the 2 point area was indicative of the ease of which the Blue Eagles were able to handle the Archer defense. Whenever an Archer would attempt a foray into the paint, the Ateneo defenders were ready, and they blocked 7 shots without any reciprocation from the Archers.

The Archer offense, on the other hand, continued to sputter. In the first half, by the time Ateneo had pulled away to erect that 15-25 lead, the Archers had already misfired on 10 3point attempts. The standard Archer offensive plays were also well defended. A telling statistic was the 10-22 disparity in assists. Ateneo’s fluid passing enabled them to find the open teammate, while the Archers struggled to get the ball into good scoring positions. Other statistics were relatively close in the 2nd half, but by then the damage had been done and the lead could not be surmounted.

The rookie watch

Sam and Arvie continued their run of games where they made 3pointers. Sam, in particular, was accurate, hitting 2/3 of his attempts from the 3point area, but he played only 11 minutes. Yutien tried to duplicate his success against Al-Husseini, but Black moved Rabeh to the high post area and allowed him to take post up jumpers, most of which he made. Joel again played limited minutes, made both of his fg attempts and foul shots for 6 points. Jed and Gab failed to enter the game.

Moving forward

Again, the Archers started the round with a 2-game losing streak. With 5 games to go against UP, UE, UST, FEU, and NU (in that order), they cannot afford to lose more than 1 game if they want to make it to the final 4. Eight wins will assure them of at least a playoff for the final berth. If they lose more than one game, they will have to rely on factors outside their control, such as the other contenders losing enough games. It’s still possible, but they will have to pick up their game and regain that winning attitude.


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