Another Slow Start, Defensive Lapses did the Green Archers in

No need to dig deep into how La Salle lost game 1. Aside from the fact Ateneo played exceptionally well on both ends, the Green Archers once again started slow and played catch-up all game along. It has been pointed out before that when they have a strong start and lead going into halftime, they always win. This was not the case last Sunday as they were unable to match the Blue Eagles’ intensity.

It may have been just a 6-point loss but the final score does not tell the entire story how La Salle was unable to execute effectively as a unit. It was only their sheer individual talent that made this game close but it is clear that it takes more than that to beat a team that is built on chemistry. They appeared a step slow to respond on defense. What’s frustrating is that they were outrebounded especially on the offensive end. It was so uncharacteristic of them to be out hustled by the Blue Eagles.

Clearly, there was serious lack of communication among the Archers towards the end of the match. They had so many chances to regain the lead but they were unable to come up with a good play in the final 3 minutes. Ill-advised shots and defensive lapses allowed the Blue Eagles to escape with the win.

Of course, we can always point to the early foul trouble on Ricci Rivero that made him hesitant to gamble on defense and take it strong to the rim. Then there is Ben Mbala who struggled to get his offensive game going because of the swarming defense put up by Ateneo. He finished with just 8 points, his lowest output in his two years playing in the UAAP. The lone bright spot in this game was Aljun Melecio who topped all scorers with 24 points. Who knows how this game would have turned out if our mainstays just scored their averages.

The reality is, the Green Archers is down 0-1 in this series. It’s do-or-die for them this coming Wednesday and unless they play as a collective unit, dictate the pace right from the start and most importantly show that they want it more, we might as well expect the Blue Eagles to clinch the championship. We firmly believe that the team will play much better in game 2 and that adjustments will be made defensively.

There is no denying that La Salle will go as far as Ben will take them. He needs to shrug this loss quickly and be motivated the bounce back. And yes, he should not let those distractions outside the court affect his game. We all know very well that was unintentional and that any small player who will tightly guard a big man like him will most likely be struck in the face by an inadvertent elbow. If the Green Archers are to get back in this series, we need Ben to come up big on Wednesday. This is not saying that the rest of the team should just rely on him to carry the load. Others need to step up as well if they want to force a game 3 on Sunday.

Facing this kind of adversity not new to captain Kib Montalbo. He was part of the 2013 championship team that came back from a 0-1 deficit against UST. In the same situation once again, Kib is confident that they will be able to regroup and force a winner-take-all match.

The team may have their backs against the wall but it would be foolish to count them out just yet. They have been through a lot this season and they have shown they can bounce back from a loss. Let’s see how they will respond.

It ain’t over ’till it’s over.