La Salle looks to rise above the expectations to start the season

The Green Archers have some added motivation heading into the new UAAP season.

Moving on from that shaky and emotional aftermath that immediately followed their unsuccessful title defense 10 months ago, the team is aiming to rise above the preseason predictions and prove their doubters wrong.

For the first time since 2013, La Salle is not considered as a favorite to compete for the championship. Some even went as far as saying that they won’t even reach the Final Four. With so many new faces, they are a significantly a different squad from last year. No longer having the depth and luxury of players that can take-charge at any given moment, the Green Archers will be counting on total team effort to get them through this season.

The talent level may have dipped, but we believe this team still has the pieces to make a serious run at the title. We have not gotten to see then play as a complete unit in the preseason tournaments but based how they performed, they still have what it takes to compete.

First up is FEU who is are entering this season with an almost-intact veteran core. Even with the loss of Ron Dennison and Jojo Trinidad, they still have the likes or Arvin Tolentiono, Wendel Comboy, Hubert Cani, Ken Tuffin, Axel Inigo, Richard Escoto and Prince Orizu. Let us all remember last year that despite their season struggles, the Tamaraws were one defensive stop away from making it to the finals. FEU is also a team seeking for some redemption.

Both squads faced each other in the Filoil quarterfinals with the Tamaraws prevailing thanks to a huge fourth quarter explosion by Cani. The Green Archers were without Kib Montalbo and Santi Santillan in that game so it was honestly not a good measure how things will play out this Sunday. The team has shown much improvement in the succeeding tournaments they participated.

One significant advantage La Salle has is their size with the much-improved Justine Baltazar along with newcomers Taane Samuel and Brandon Bates. On the other side, the only steady inside presence they have is Orizu.

Expect the Tamaraws to rely heavily on outside scoring and dribble drive penetration to capitalize on La Salle’s apparent weakness in effectively guarding the perimeter. Giving the opponent’s shooters open looks has been a perennial problem for the team, which has led to a lot of their losses. We shall know soon if this issue has already been fully addressed by the coaching staff.

The backcourt remains solid with the guard trio of Montalbo, Andrei Caracut and Aljun Melecio. There’s also Jollo Go who has shown remarkable improvement since his first two years with the team.

But perhaps the most intriguing storyline is the late addition of Encho Serrano. We were able to see glimpses of what he can do when they played in Korea. A slasher who is not afraid to bang bodies inside despite being just 5’11. If Serrano manages to adjust right away to the team’s system, he definitely brings a new dimension to their offense. He may just be the edge that they need to contend this season.

Given the “colorful” history of these two squads, Sunday’s game promises to be an exciting one. Regardless of the result, this match is not going to completely tell how the Green Archers shall fare this season.

If they manage to pull off a win here, it will not only be a big boost for them confidence-wise but it also brings much optimism to those who still believe that this team will do well despite all the drama and changes that happened early in the year.

Let’s get it on!