Almost but now quite.
The Archers dropped the first game of the finals to UST, 72-73 in a game where our team never really found its rhythm. The loss dropped the Archers into a must-win situation in the second game. Simply put, win or ‘wait till next year’.
The Archers struck first, 2-0 on an early Almond basket, but then yielded the initiative by allowing UST to score the next 18 points. The UST lead peaked at 4-21 with 2:29 left in the first quarter before Almond, Thomas, and Jeron combined to close out the first 10 minutes at 13-23. The Archers missed a horrendous 15 out of 19 shots in the first quarter while UST shot a blistering 60% from beyond the arc (3/5) and 5/10 from closer in.
It was an uphill battle from there, but the Archers fought back valiantly, raising their defensive intensity to take the 2nd quarter, 18-15. They held UST to a 4/14 shooting clip from the field but gave UST 6 free throws, all of which the Tigers made. UST was also harassed into 6 turnovers as the Archers closed in, 31-38 at the half.
The Archers continued their comeback in the 3rd, again pressuring UST into a 5/16 shooting clip while making 45% themselves to outscore UST, 23-12 and take a 4-point lead going into the last quarter. It seemed that the tide had turned with the momentum swinging to our side.
However, Jeric Teng made a quick trey and collaborated with Abdul to wrest the lead back, 54-55. It was close from there on, with Jason hitting a basket to give La Salle the lead for the last time at 56-55. The best the Archers could do was to tie at 58, before Jeric Teng, Abdul and Sheriff towed UST to a 5point lead, 59-64. Almond made a trey to close in at 62-64, but 4 missed fts by Norbert, Thomas and Jeron derailed the comeback. The Archers got the ball back with 29 seconds left but missed all 3 attempts to lose out at the end by a single point.
The loss, while it stung, was not an indication that the Archers cannot compete at this level. Despite playing a sub-par game, particularly in the first quarter, the Archers were able to effectively match up. Poor shooting was the main reason, because the stats were roughly equal in almost all other categories:
- Rebounds: 44-43
- Assists: 10-11
- Steals: 4-2
- Blocks: 2-3
- Turnovers: 9-14 (possibly our best game in this respect so far)
Areas to improve on for game 2:
Shooting under pressure – Jeron was dared by his defender to hit the outside shot, but unfortunately he was off the mark, making only 5/16 fgs. UST packed the paint and tried to take away his drives. Norbert also had a bad shooting game, making just 1/6. With that shooting rate, our twin towers just lost one threat. If Matt isn’t available for game 2, Gab will need to take his outside shots with confidence. Thomas will need to make those open treys, and LA has to be allowed to get free of the end-to-end guarding of the UST guards. If there’s a factor that made our offensive less effective, it might be that LA found it difficult to orchestrate with the tight guarding he was subjected to.
Rebounding – we should have the edge in this area, but UST managed to battle us to a virtual draw. We need to be more aggressive in keeping UST from the boards.
Other than that, I don’t see Coach Juno doing much tweaking to the Archer game. The critical thing will be to avoid an early deficit, and be on the alert for those “nakaw” plays that Coach Pido likes to surprise us with.
There will be a game 3!!!