From being a warm-up game to a possible Diliman bonfire at the early moments of the third quarter. These are not the UP Fighting Maroons of past seasons, heck they do not even resemble the UP team that La Salle ambushed from the get go during the first round. Credit the coaching staff for in-game adjustments and the De La Salle Green Archers finally flexing their muscle to sweep the season series, 86-65.
For the best part of the first twenty minutes, La Salle was contented to exert just enough effort on offense and defense to win the game. UP, already out of the running for a Final Four slot, almost crashed DLSU’s six-game winning party as no Green Archer could stop JR Gallarza especially from the three-point area.
To make matters worse, La Salle turned the ball over 11 times which resulted into eight points off turnovers for UP. What did help the Green and White to take the lead at the break was its 51% shooting and 25-17 advantage on the boards.
A Jason Perkins to Jeron Teng defensive assignment switch on Gallarza cooled off the former La Salle Team B player in the second half, limiting his contribution to only four points after scoring 14 in the first two quarters. Despite the occasional outburst from the Fighting Maroons, DLSU dominated both ends of the court in the final half to cruise to their 7th straight win.
Super senior Almond Vosotros rediscovered the form that makes him arguably the league’s most dangerous shooter, hitting 5 of 8 from deep for 21 points, two rebounds and four assists. Playing Goose to Almond’s Maverick was Jeron, finishing with another brilliant stat line of 15 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Balancing the two wing players was the inside tandem of Jason Perkins and Arnold Van Opstal who combined for 25 points and 19 rebounds.
It is still the De La Salle Green Archer’s title to lose and in this current winning streak, the biggest enemy lies within.
AVO is back
His image might have been all over social media due to his off-court activities but there is no doubt that after almost a month of planned rest, the Lasallian faithful have missed the on-court activities and presence of Arnold Van Opstal more.
AVO finally announced his return in the second quarter, scoring an emphatic dunk off a pick and roll. The Fil-German showed none of the lingering effects of an injured achilles tendon to score 12 points on 5/7 shooting, eight rebounds and one block. Arnold was quick on his feet and was even quicker in reading and reacting to the UP defense.
So effective was AVO that rookie Prince Rivero, a regular contributor off the bench during the previous six La Salle wins, was only fielded for four minutes and collared three rebounds and issued an assist. It was a scenario where match-ups dictated the rotation as the taller and more nimble AVO could clearly take better advantage of UP’s front court players than Rivero.
Best stretch of the game
The Green Archers was leading by 15, 72-57 at the 8:00 mark of the fourth quarter. A lead neither comfortable for a sure win or seemingly insurmountable for the Fighting Maroons to get back to. From the post, AVO swings a pass to Vosotros from a trey, then on back-to-back occasions Almond finds Kib Montalbo and AVO for fast break alley-oops.
The 7-0 run executed in exactly one minute not only did they extend the lead by 22 but it also showed the true firepower of the defending champions. Double-team our post players and opponents will get torched by our shooters. Employ single coverage on La Salle’s frontline and you might as well count them the basket for DLSU.
This game also showed a weapon of the Archers that rarely do we get to see, the fast break points. However dominant the Green frontline is or accurate the La Salle perimeter shooters, easy points from leak outs or long lead passes always help the offense and give the team sustainable momentum. DLSU was +5 (14-9) in terms of fast break points, despite committing more turnovers than UP (18-13).
La Salle hot hands
Speaking of weapons, the three-pointer finally showed up when it mattered most. As UP kept close to the Archers for the whole of the first quarter, DSLU relied on the hot hands of Vosotros, Julian Sargent and even Teng. The trio’s six first half conversions was almost half of La Salle’s 40 point output and kept the lead in favor of the Green and White.
Conversion and percentage-wise, the total 9 for 20 shooting from rainbow land is the team’s season high. The attempts never felt forced, owning to good defensive reads, quick ball movements and unselfishness from they boys. As both teams attempted a lot of perimeter shots through out the game, it was still great to see that despite getting the same number of attempts from the charity stripe, DLSU had a +5 advantage in makes (15/19 vs 10/19).
No La Salle player played more than 30 minutes, making all players fresh and injury-free for next Wednesday’s important game against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. Whatever errors and lapses in this game the coaching staff point out to the Green Archers in the next few days would be best to keep in mind.
The perfect approach to any game is not to play with the same focus and intensity of the opponent, but play above and beyond the level of the other team. It is still the De La Salle Green Archer’s title to lose and in this current winning streak, the biggest enemy lies within. Animo La Salle!