Greenstincts: Rise of the Reserves

Two weeks after the De La Salle Green Archers won the Season 76 men’s title, coaches Juno Sauler, Jun Limpot and Allan Caidic were sent to the US to observe and learn from the training camp of the current NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in Texas.

The Spurs, coached by the great Gregg Popovich are known for resting their star players in regular season games and spreading the playing minutes of the rotation. While the approach seems unconventional, the Spurs continue to win games (and championships), while at the same time consistently display a high IQ style of play.

Flash forward to the August 2, 2014. With starting guard Thomas Torres already in a street clothes with a walking boot on, coach Juno does a Popovich and decides to rest his main big men Arnold Van Opstal and Norbert Torres due to injuries. With a career game from Kib Montalbo and major contributions from its corps of rookies, La Salle still had more than enough to defeat the winless Adamson Falcon squad in wire-to-wire fashion, 67-48.

Thrusted into the starting lineup for the past two games, Montalbo benefitted from great ball movement of the Green Archers, getting open looks from just within the arc to finish the game with 18 points on nine of 12 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. Kib looked confident and decisive, scoring La Salle’s first basket of the game with a corner jumpshot. His last layup with 4:01 left in the fourth gave DLSU a 25 point lead, 63-38.

Our heralded rookies, Prince Rivero, Julian Sargent and Abu Tratter had the breakout game we always yearned for as the trio combined for 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Tratter, who started in place of AVO only had one field goal but made it in spectacular fashion, a fast break dunk to give DLSU its biggest lead, 65-39 with 3:09 remaining in the game.

The team hardly missed the usual scoring contributions of Jeron Teng and Jason Perkins as the duo combined for only four points but had 14 rebounds and seven assists.

It will be a scary scene when the Green Archers finally fire on all cylinders: scoring at will in the paint, dominating the boards and hitting outside bombs.

Excellence in teamwork
The Green Archers only converted 26 of their 69 attempts from the field. But 23 of those 26 came from an assist. Against the 2-3 zone of the Falcons, La Salle moved the ball in and out and side-to-side to find the open shot.

Sharing was definitely infectious as Jeron led the way with five assists while three other Archers were credited with three or more. The results speak for themselves: good shots became great ones and La Salle riding a three-game winning streak after an 0-2 start.

La Salle also minimised on its turnovers, giving up the ball “only” 18 times compared to the glaring 36 that they committed against University of the East.

All available players logged in good amount of minutes with only Kib playing more than 30 minutes. 5th year big man Yutien Andrada chipped in six points and four rebounds in eight quality minutes, even sophomore Robert Bolick got into the scoring act with four points.

Balanced attack
In last two wins against National U and UE, the La Salle frontline carried much of the load while the perimeter players continued their cold shooting from downtown. While the team still struggled from the three-point territory, going 3 of 15, DLSU scored more perimeter points, 31 against 24 points in the paint.

The balanced attack not only served the team well for this game but also makes the La Salle unpredictable against future opponents. It will be a scary scene when the Green Archers finally fire on all cylinders: scoring at will in the paint, dominating the boards and hitting outside bombs.

Biggest cheer of the game
With four minutes left in the game, the Lasallian crowd went nuts when coach Juno finally called the number 12 of rookie Terrence Mustre. After sitting out the first four games, Mustre’s first UAAP basket was highly anticipated by the La Salle faithful. Though he missed all two of his attempts, garbage time or not, it was great that the rookie finally got some time on the floor.

On a personal note, I want to see more plays for Prince on the low block. Rivero had nifty moves early in the 4th period to score back-to-back hook shots. Matched up against smaller defenders, and Price can power his way to the basket. When playing without the ball, he also knows where to position himself to receive drop passes and make effective under goal stabs.

Not only are the Green Archers on a roll and full of confidence but the team is finally showing their killer’s instincts and championship pride. With the green pants-clad La Salle coaching staff still finding things to improve or fine-tune and are waiting for key players to return from injury, DLSU’s best games are ahead of them.