During the initial stages of the game, Justin Baltazar was hoisting brick jumpshots repeatedly, prompting one of my friends to comment “medyo bwakaw ata si Baltazar a”. To which I calmly responded “mukhang inutos”.
I knew immediately what the coaching staff was doing. To get Balti to establish his midrange shooting game to draw out the NU big men out of the paint, specially Issa Gaye and Troy Rike. This strategy will give our deadly backcourt and front court the scoring opportunities inside.
Unfortunately at the start, Balti was not hitting his shots, prompting our offense to come from our guards and forwards, who also sputtered from outside. That was the reason why NU controlled the game early, with their varied offensive schemes and talented line up. NU had several double digit leads of between 11 to 13 points. I could feel the despair of the La Salle crowd, speculating early with “eto na, tatambakan na tayo” and “ayan, 13 lang kasi ni line-up. Ngayon 12 na lang, kulang na sa position”.
I have been watching the games for decades now, and people ALWAYS forget the old time tested adage. Offense wins games, DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS.
Yes, basketball has two aspects: offense and defense. And one of the should never rest. Guess which. Thus in the second quarter, offense from the outside still sputtering, La Salle turned on the juice – defensively. This resulted to a faster game, with more transition points and short stabs made, than long three point jackpot shots. Result: we were down only 4 at the half.
In order for this us to succeed defensively, we go to two factors: the Intangibles and defining roles (once again). Praises were rightfully accorded to Balti, Aljun, Andre, Kib, Jollo, and Santi. They are still our main guns both offensively and defensively. Enough writings and praises have been done for them by this time. My focus is really on the Intangibles in this game.
First of all, former blue eaglet (thankfully), Joaqui Manuel, played an excellent two way all around game. Kudos for the kid, for his great work ethic, high basketball IQ, (and good school choice….Hahaha had to insert that in). Secondly, Brandon Bates deserves equal praise as Balti. 8 rebounds and three of them offensive (successful at that with all of them converted into points).
Mark Dyke, also with his rebounding but more importantly, his heavy banging body, specially on the bigs of NU. Even Issa Gaye and Troy Rike couldn’t just muscle their way inside. He fouled out in the 3rd. Shows me that he played his crucial role to the hilt.
Nobody also took notice of Enzo Serrano’s defense and playmaking. Everybody expects his offense to hum, but remember, these are varsity players, not high school kids, that he is up against. But his upside is limitless as this early, he already possesses a varsity player basketball body, doesn’t he? Konti na lang, he will be one of our main cogs.
There were some plays that still showed our immaturity at this time. Joaqui Manuel, Andrei Caracut, and yes, even Aljun Melecio, passed up on shots that they should have taken, which resulted to scores on the other end. That was team inexperience but will slowly be corrected by really defining roles.
But this game showed huge progress and more clear, defined roles for the team. Thus, we won a close and tense endgame, the same environment as our loss to feu, didn’t we? There were statistical points highlighted this early. We are last on offense, but one of the leaders in rebounding and assists. So do you get where our identity this year is guys? You guessed it. We won on rebounding, steals, defense, Balti’s jumpshot, and most importantly, the INTANGIBLES.
The assists come from fast breaks. Our offense should be more balanced (4 scored in double figures this game?), and our defense should NEVER REST. Bang bodies. Hustle, disrupt, frustrate, MAYHEM. We should be ok for the season don’t you think?
And yes. Thanks Mang Jack for sending your Animo down. Remember our rallying point. Animo.