The most common comments about the game were “an ugly win” and “a win is a win”. Both terms very aptly describe the one point overtime win against Adamson, 64-63. The Archers eked out the win on a Maui Villanueva free throw with 3.7 seconds left in overtime. With the victory, the Archers evened their record at 2 wins, 2 losses.
More Archers step up
The game saw breakout performances from Kish Co and Hyram Bagatsing. Kish Co, our undersized power forward who was never known for his scoring ability, led the scoresheet with 17 points and 9 rebounds in only 22 minutes. Hyram found his mark from long distance as he hit 3 crunch time treys to keep the Archers in the game. Their sterling performances offset the career game of backup Adamson pg Lester Alvarez who poured in 24 points in as many minutes. Alvarez almost singlehandedly turned the tables on the Archers as he repeatedly penetrated or hit from the long court.
Defense does it again for the Archers
While the most common comment about the Archers has been their inability to consistently put points on the board, most observers and supporters have overlooked the defensive aspect of the green-and-white. The Archer defense again limited their second consecutive opponent to 63 points after holding their first 2 foes to just 65 points. After throttling UP into a 4 point second quarter, the Archers nearly repeated the feat as they held Adamson to a single free throw in the first 9:30 of the second quarter. Only a defensive letdown allowed Adamson to score a basket and hit on a halfcourt heave as the halftime buzzer sounded to bring their total to 6 points. Now, if only the Archers could replicate this second quarter defensive performance for the full 4 quarters of a game.
As basketball pundits like to say, a team’s offense may be off but the defense can always be relied on. The Archers only connected on 28% of their field goal attempts, still a long way from where it should be, so the Archers had to rely on their defense to win the game. The aggressive Archer defense forced the Falcons to turn the ball over 28 times, which they converted into 24 points. Only Alvarez was able to score in double digits for the Falcons, who have lost their games by an average of 1.7 points. Starting guards Jerick Canada and Leo Canuday were rendered ineffective by their counterparts Simon Atkins, Bader Malabes, and Hyram Bagatsing, who limited them to 6 points and just 1 assist despite both logging a total of 50 minutes. In fact, the two had more turnovers than points, with 7. The Falcon frontline of Michael Galinato and Jan Colina was also limited to just 9 points by Ferdinand, Yutien Andrada, Arvie Bringas, and Maui Villanueva. James made up for his lower point production by blocking 2 Adamson shots, with Maui accounting for the other block. The quick hands of the Archers resulted in 9 steals, with rookie Joel Tolentino accounting for 3 and James with 2. Big men Arvie and Yutien contributed 1 each.
While the defensive intensity has stepped up, the team will have to maintain their focus and concentration for the full game. In some instances, the Archers prevented the Falcons from any clear shots at the basket for 20 seconds, only for the Falcons to find a way to score in the last ticks of the shot clock. The defense is shaping up to be the major Archer weapon for this season. Still a work in progress, but the results so far are definitely in line with the Archer reputation for defense over the years.
Offense still needs some work
The Archers continued to misfire on offense, but compensated by taking 76 field goal attempts and hitting 21. Some of this inaccuracy may be traced to the players being “gigil”, as well as team still learning how to implement the offense in the UAAP environment. The free throw yips resurfaced, and the Archers only connected on 16 out of 31 attempts. Yet it was a free throw that provided the decisive margin. The team will need to practice their foul shots. Interestingly, Arvie Bringas connected on 1 of his 2 attempts from the 3 point area. If he can sink these long shots consistently, he can draw out his man and free up the interior for the other Archer inside operators like James or allow slashers like Bader and Hyram to penetrate.
Teamwork is improving. The number of assists rose to 15 after a low of 8 in the FEU game. What is encouraging about his statistic is the number of players whose passes allowed their teammates to score – 9. Joshua and James contributed 3 each. The Archers also took relatively good care of the ball, turning it over 17 times.
Rebounding continued to be competitive, with the team collecting 50 rebounds, 20 of which were on the offensive glass. Kish Co barely missed a double double with 9 rebounds. Arvie and James continued their sterling board work with 7 each, and Yutien made the most of his 17 minutes by pulling down 5 rebounds and harassing the Adamson big men.
The rookie watch
Reed thin Yutien logged the most minutes with 17, followed by Arvie with 16 and Joel with 12. Sam Marata started but was limited to 6 minutes, and Gab was on court for 3 minutes. Jed Manguera did not see action. Yutien’s statistics may not be impressive, but his value can be seen in the way he helped prevent the Falcon big men from dominating inside. Arvie struggled from the field, but made up for it by being active on defense and paying attention to his board work. Once he adapts to playing against bigger opponents and learns to relax, he’ll start to deliver results. Joel continues to contribute valuable minutes at the point. His effortless ball handling and court vision make him a very capable point guard, and he continues to be an offensive threat with his ability to consistently hit the trey. Joel likewise provides the quickness that LA showed last year. Sam continued to be closely marked and was unable to take any attempts from the field. Touted to be a gunner from long range, once he gains confidence in the catch and shoot sets, he’ll be the same kind of threat that Renren was during his stint with the team. Gab and Jed have not had the opportunity to show their wares yet due to their playing time, but they have also showed their shooting ability from the long court during the pre-season.
Peejay was in sick bay, and it was later revealed that he had been hospitalized. James and Bader came in for some criticism for their performance during the game, and after the game James and Bader were also admitted because they had played sick. Without their contributions, it is highly probable that the team would have lost to Adamson.
The Archers still have to play NU, UST, and Ateneo. NU is a dangerous team that hoists a lot of shots, particularly from 3 point range. If the ‘Dogs get hot, they will definitely be a threat. UST was not fancied to make it to the final 4, but their performance in the first few games installed them as a legitimate contender. Their core is built around last year’s team minus Jervy Cruz and Japs Cuan, is quick and athletic, and can light it up from the long court. Pido Jarencio is a savvy coach who has shown that he can extract the maximum from his players. Of course, despite their loss to UP, Ateneo remains the team to beat. They have the best inside game, and their guards and wingmen can hit it from outside, are more experienced, and have played together longer than the young team we have. A sweep of the remaining games to finish at 5-2 is unlikely. The Archers should win at least 1 of the last 3 games, so at worst could finish 3-4. Of course, it would be better if they could finish the first round with a winning record at 4-3.
The game against Adamson showed that the Archer game is starting to come together both on offense and defense. The defense has held opponents to an average of 64 points, and the ability to disrupt the opponents’ game plan was evident against the Falcons where only Alvarez was able to excel. The starters were all held to sub-par performances. It is on offense where the Archers need to regain their confidence. Their ability to sink their shots is better than their statistics suggest.
But we need to remember that the Archers have traditionally started the season slow, and tend to peak only in the second round. So there’s still a lot of upside to this team. They deserve our support.
KEEP THE FAITH!