Faced with a win-or-wait-till-next-year situation, the Archers came out breathing fire, taking a stranglehold of the game after only 7 minutes en route to a convincing victory to force a game 3.
Now that’s how you do it!
Hmmm, come to think of it, just how did we do it?
The Green Archers dominated the game last Saturday, 77-70 to quash UST’s hopes of sweeping the short series and arrange a winner-take-all this Saturday. Gone were the jitters that plagued the Archers in the first game, as they went back to their identified strengths in the paint and on defense. They executed the game plan throughout the game, throttling the UST offense with effective defensive measures, and fluid offensive thrusts that saw almost all the players get touches on each offensive.
Learning from the game 1 mistakes, Coach Juno gave specific instructions not to leave UST’s game 1 hero Ferrer open on the perimeter. The effective defensive tactics limited Ferrer to 6 points coming from a single field goal out of only 6 attempts and 4 charities, a far cry from his gaudy game 1 numbers of 6/9 fgs and 3 fts for 20 points. So frustrated was Ferrer that he committed an unsportsmanlike foul in the 3rd quarter to hand us a 4point possession on the fts plus a basket on the next play.
About the only Tiger who was productive was Jeron’s Kuya, who got away with 28 hard-earned points on 10/22 from the field. Abdul did score in double figures with 13, but got most of them from the stripe where he went 7/7. Mariano managed 9 points scattered throughout the game, and Sheriff and Bautista contributed the same number of points as Ferrer with 6 each.
That’s what our defense did to the Tigers.
Won the Battle of the Boards and the Paint
Oh yeah, we also manhandled them on the boards to the tune of 57-39, with 27 offensive recoveries which we turned into 18 points. In contrast, UST only managed 10 offensive rebounds. Those 27 rebounds almost equalled UST’s total defensive rebounds (29). Now that’s really crashing the boards.
Our top rebounders were the usual bigs – AVO (14), Norbert (10), and LA (10). Wait a minute. LA, a big? Well, he did outrebound Abdul who only managed 9 rebounds, the same number that Jeron pulled down.
So effective was the interior game that UST’s bigs very quickly got into foul trouble as we pounded the ball into the paint. Mariano fouled out, Abdul had 3, and Pe also had 3. All 3 Tiger bigs collaborated for 19 total boards, while AVO, Norbert, and Jason had 30.
Teamwork and trust in each other
The half-court sets of the Archers may look time-consuming, but they’re very effective in getting good ball movement and player positioning. We had 16 assists in a game where we had our backs to the wall, showing that the Archers stuck to the game plan under duress. They executed well, and it showed in how they shared the ball.
Although the Archers were comparatively less experienced, with no player ever having gone this deep into the playoffs, they played with composure and confidence. Even when UST came back to within a point at 44-43, they stood their ground and immediately brought the lead back up to a comfortable double digit lead at 57-45 behind hits by Jason, AVO, LA, Almond, and Norbert. Five different players stepped up when needed to restore a safe margin that we maintained until the end, and in that run, 5 assists were made out of the 6 baskets of our team. If that isn’t a great example of teamwork and trusting each other to make the right play, I don’t know what is.
After a low 9 turnovers in game 1, the Archers outdid themselves with only 8 in game 2. That’s probably a season low for the team, and it also indicates how well the players know each other and where they fit into the game plan. No freelancing or hero ball, the Archers played total team ball.
UST’s individual players had to work extra hard to get their points, typified by Jeric’s solo efforts that got him the game-high 28 points mostly out of his own efforts. Nowhere was this more evident than in the 7 assists of UST.
Our players were noticeably quicker to the 50-50 balls, and they never gave up on any play. They had more energy and drive, something which the tv panel commented on during the game. Again, there was no let up on defense, every shot challenged, every pass harassed, every play contested, every missed shot chased. No let up.
What about game 3?
What do we expect?
Will the Tigers change their game plan? You betcha. Coach Pido saw how we dominated them inside, and he’s sure to come up with schemes to neutralize our inside game. Different variations of the zone come to mind. Quick double team whenever the ball gets to our post players. I wouldn’t put it past him to have watched videos to find out where our players like to position themselves, then having the guards take chances with the passing lanes, and gambling on intercepts. But when he does that, our shooters will be left open, and they can hit the long balls fairly consistently. It’s a case of pick your poison for UST. There will also be some surprise plays that, if we’re caught unaware, may get them easy baskets, like the fastbreaks on the inbound or the nakaw on the baseline inbound. And of course they will be physical.
Will the Archers change their game plan? Nah. It ain’t broke, so Coach Juno’s not fixing it. We’ll probably do the same things we do well. Predictable? Yeah. Boring? Not at all. Will knowing what we’ll do make it easier to stop us? Not likely. The team has learned, no, mastered the system that Coach Juno put in place for this year. And now they know how to execute it very well. It’s something like Coach Franz’s killer press when our players finally learned it, devastatingly successful. Well if we win game 3, we will also be able to say that Juno’s system is devastatingly successful.
Is Coach Juno going to spring some surprises? I wouldn’t put it past him, since he’s always kept his cards close to his chest, but if it’s the same-old same-old, we’ll do just fine.
The Keys to Game 3 – in a Nutshell
- Continue to dominate the boards and the paint – establish the inside game early, get our bigs involved in the scoring early, and limit UST to a single attempt per possession. If we can get our points inside and get the UST bigs into foul trouble early, this will be a big boost to our chances
- LA must look to shoot – he has to be a scoring threat in addition to his playmaking. His deft orchestration is the main reason that our offense is effective. When he’s taking a breather, our plays don’t go as smoothly. In fact, Sheriff may stick to him from the start and try to keep the ball out of his hands or keep the pressure on him to try to tire him out
- We have to take and hit the outside shots when free – Pido will probably gamble on clogging the lane, so we need to show the Tigers that they can’t leave us alone outside. They’ll zone us a lot and we may see different flavors as Pido will try to catch us off balance
- Watch the fouls – Coach Pido might try to attack our individual players like Jason or Jeron to get them into foul trouble, much like what he did with Newsome. Ferrer and Mariano will probably attack more instead of settling for jumpers. If anyone gets into early foul trouble, it may mess up the rotation and substitution patterns
- Stick to the system – it works
And I think that’ll be enough to bring the trophy back to Taft.
A juicy tidbit
During the post-game interview, Boom babbled a couple of introductory sentences on Coach Juno’s rotation, then popped the question on why we fielded just 7 players. Expectant pause. Coach Juno’s reply – “my choice” was totally unexpected. No further elaboration. Nada. Boom waited a couple of seconds but nothing was forthcoming. The look on Boom’s face was priceless as he tried to digest Juno’s reply. His vacant expression, eyes looking up, everywhere but at the camera as he groped for something to say was something for the record books. And he committed the on-air deadly sin of dead air. Co-host TJ Manotoc mercifully jumped in to prevent a long lull, turned his attention to Norbert, but in turn was also given a one-liner by Norbert. Silence. And thus ended the on-air interview session. Abruptly. And that completed a very satisfying Saturday.
So will Coach Juno still give Boom another one-liner tomorrow? I certainly hope so! Just to see him fumble for words. It would, in fact, be the perfect ending to what is already a very good season!
Archers, take the championship trophy back to La Salle!