Time for the Next Mission: Defend the UAAP title

In yesterday’s battle of the champions, the De La Salle University Green Archers proved triumphant, downing the San Beda Red Lions behind an impressive rally in the fourth period.

It was an imposing run, but something not surprising to the team’s supporters. The Green Archers have been coming back from deficits dating back to last UAAP season, and the FilOil title game was another episode to the thick collection.

However, Coach Juno Sauler mentioned after the match that he is not satisfied, and rightfully so. While La Salle did put up a valiant fight in the fourth period, the first three quarter were a different story, as the team played to San Beda’s pace rather than imposing their will. Jason Perkins got called for a technical foul, while Arnold Van Opstal was hounded by foul trouble.

Nonetheless, it was an impressive championship, most especially after the disappointing losses to JRU and UPHSD. In those games, the Green Archers beat themselves more than the other way around, but La Salle cleaned up their act when the tournament playoffs started.

After the contest, Jeron Teng talked about how winning the preseason tilt wasn’t the team’s main goal, but rather to “improve” and “get better” entering the UAAP season, which kicks off on July 12.

The Green Archers open their season against the FEU Tamaraws, which, coincidentally, proved to be as tough a challenger in the quarterfinal round as San Beda was yesterday.

Still, from a talent perspective, DLSU is the most loaded university in the UAAP, and should repeat as champions should they play their style of basketball and not result to indulging in mental mind games with the opponent.  Beda succeeded in doing the latter in the first 36 minutes of the title game, but the guys in green woke up just in time to flip the script, and it didn’t take long for them to erase the Red Lions’ advantage.

Another thing that was noticeable from last night: Almond Vosotros is the best ball-handler of the squad. The clutch-shooting virtuoso is amazing in the pick-and-roll, and rarely commits mistakes with his decision-making.

Vosotros has also expanded his game, adding a crafty mid-range shooting game to his arsenal rather than just being a spot up shooter. He’s not the most athletic of the bunch, but not many can match Almond’s basketball IQ.

Coach Sauler talked yesterday about how fortunate the team is to have Vosotros do ball-handling duties late in the game. Furthermore, he’s a consistent free throw shooter, and the team will take as many FT opportunities as they can.

The next mission is in store for La Salle. After prevailing in three straight basketball tournaments, the Green Archers look to start the next phase of their reign, which can only be accomplished by going back to back.

The team’s overall talent demands another ring. If the club plays to their strength and find ways to not beat themselves, I see no reason why they shouldn’t rule again when the finals end in October.

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