While GreenFansPH has their Grandma Green (and her sermons), I have my own version of a Green Tita of Manila during yesterday’s 62-73 loss to the Ateneo Blue Eagles. From mentioning how the DLSU’s number 13 (Andrei Caracut) played poorly and committed a lot of mistakes to the team’s poor showing at the line, my aunt pretty much highlighted what went wrong in the La Salle’s fourth loss in the last five games.
The score lines and storylines in most of the Archer’s loss in Season 78 has been pretty much the same: get the lead in the first half, the other team rallies in the 3rd or 4th quarter, La Salle tries to rally back but still come up short in the end.
Despite DLSU leading, 35-30 at the halftime break and getting outscored, 9-23 in the third frame, the Ateneo comeback actually started in the second period when the Archers could not find an answer to energy, hussle and effort of the Blue Eagles’ bench.
Sans 6th starter Prince Rivero, who finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and two assists off the bench, only Caracut (five points, 0/5 FG, 5/8 FT’s, 3 TO’s) and Jollo Go (two points) were able to produce for La Salle; unable to keep up with their Ateneo rookie counterparts in Aaron Black and Adrian Wong who combined for 23 points (8/13 FG) and four rebounds.
Battling foul trouble in the second half, team captain Jeron Teng only played in seven total minutes after the intermission, and was limited to only two points after tallying nine points, four rebounds and two assists in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Even with Jeron fouling out at the the 3:35 mark of the final frame and La Salle trailing by nine, 55-64, there was still a glimmer of a hope that DLSU might steal this win and sweep the Blue Eagles this season. After a Caracut split on the line and a Go jumper trimmed the deficit to six, Tomas Torres had two 3-point attempts to tie the game but alas, the Archers could not duplicate their 80-76 first round win over Ateneo.
Outshot, out-rebounded, outplayed
While the Green Archers got their teammates involved to the tune of 14 assists (against AdMU’s six), team team got killed on the boards, 34-48 (11-15 offensive) that led to a 10-0 Ateneo advantage in the second chance points. With coach Juno Sauler opting to use Prince as his center and a backcourt rotation featuring any combination of Torres, Caracut, Go and Renzo Navarro, the Blue Eagles simply dominated in cleaning the glass.
The team may have converted more three-point baskets (4/16 against Ateneo’s 2/12) but the Eagles shot better overall from the field, 40.7% (24/59) than DLSU, 37.1% (23/62). What really hurt La Salle’s chances was missing half of the attempts at the charity stripe (12/24) and Jeron only getting one attempt at the foul line during an and-one play in the first quarter.
Doing the math
At 5-7 and fifth place in the standings, the Green Archers’ remaining opponents are the UP Fighting Maroons and league-leading FEU Tamaraws. The fourth-running NU Bulldogs tote a 6-7 win-loss record with their last game being a match-up against FEU. Should NU win, La Salle needs to sweep its final two games to at gain a playoff spot for the final slot in the Final Four.
Another loss eliminates the Archers in playoff contention and ends one of the most heartbreaking, head-scratching, finger-pointing season in DLSU’s UAAP history. Two losses ensure that together with Seasons 72 (2009) and 74 (2011), Season 78 is the worst showing of the La Salle, record-wise in 29 years in the league.
At this point, with their Final Four lives hanging in the balance and their fate still in their control, the La Salle players and coaching staff should be only be focused on the Fighting Maroons. No more regrets on who should have been in the current 15-man roster, the past seven losses in this tournament or the promise of a better Season 79. Be in the now and live in the moment.
Every possession, rebound, made basket, assist and free throw will require a hundred percent dedication, focus and effort from the Green Archers. Forget the past and delay thoughts about the future; winning and winning the De La Salle way will take care of the haters, spurred supporters and frustrated Lasallian community.
Animo La Salle!