Almost There

See? It’s truly a weird feeling. Once again, while I’m sad as a die hard supporter of the De La Salle University Basketball Team, I am likewise amused of the wide array of topics to write about this game. The usual suspects are back.

But unlike the first game, the feeling of hopelessness and the “see you at the bonfire pare, let’s beat the traffic” crowd is gone. Or at least not really strong.

Of course, the main reason is that our big man is back. Taane Samuel played only his second game of the year, back after a long absence due to his foot fracture. It also seemed that from the way he was moving, that the recovery was a successful one.

Well, beforehand,  let’s congratulate the Ateneo Blue Eagles.  They beat us fair and square.

I know some, if not, most of you are saying that Ateneo didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves. Hahahaha. NOW the comment is on the other foot, isn’t it?. You really want to sound like the “other blue team” or “the former green and white, now yellow”? Well, I don’t. They beat us, let’s admit it, and I’ll tell you why.

First off, the return of Samuel is very good for us, specially moving forward. But this was not the 8-4 Archer team with him on it, right? This was a new team, which the coaching staff, believe it or not, experimented on. That’s right. You read it right. It was an experiment.

Didn’t you notice that some of the players of the 8-4 team were not as effective, or were totally gone, when Samuel became part of the rotation, and this is actually a continuation of my previous article. Let’s enumerate if you agree.

First,  where was Mark Dyke? Lost his spot because of Taane, correct? Wasn’t he an essential part of the 8-4 team?

Secondly did you feel that Santi Santillan played to his full potential?  Because of the now deep front-line rotation, he has less minutes, so less feel of the game, and trying to fit Taane in it. He was used differently too (guarding Ravena).

Thirdly, Encho Serrano had less room to slash around, now that the big guy is taking up space below. Taane is a higher percentage option right?

Fourthly, Jolo Go was not effective as he also saw limited action, and Ateneo forced weird defensive match ups on us, to which Jolo was a defensive liability.

And lastly, Aljun’s and Santi’s free throw misses. Nine or ten misses in total right?  And we only lost by nine.

Well guys, WE ARE NOW VERY COMPETITIVE. We could have legitimately won this game. We were trying for the chance at twice to beat, but the pressure also got to us. One word people. INEXPERIENCE.

Now that we are very, very competitive with Taane on board, we’re re-learning and redefining the roles of everyone. Not really easy at all.

For instance, Kouame found room to operate and be effective as the coaching staff played all-filipino and applied a zone defense. This was the reason for that one stretch where Ateneo got 6 or 7 offensive rebounds until they finally scored.

The rebounds seemed to be going their way but it was also a function of the zone defense structure. When you guard man-to-man, you can box out right? When you guard with a zone, long shots bounce harder and rebounds are usually outside the lane. Voila. We SEEMINGLY couldn’t box out and rebound. Learning for the coach to mix it up isn’t it? Also, a zone doesn’t really work as effectively without a big center in the middle. So Kouame used his height and length in that stretch, in the absence of Bates and Samuel during that stretch.

Ateneo also had Thirdy Ravena. His role used to be our Jeron Teng isn’t it? A nightmare match up for us, or any team, for that matter. My Fox writer friend pointed this out to me before the game, and he got it right (See? Fox can also get it right…..sometimes. Hahahaha.).

Now, although it seems that I’m leading to the conclusion that Taane should not have played because he disrupted the 8-4 team rotation, HERE IS THE UPSIDE!!!!’

First,  Kouame was not nearly as effective all game long, wasn’t he? He never looked like the second coming of anything. We now have two bigs to defensively match up well with the likes of him, and more importantly on Wednesday,  Bright Akhuite!!!  Remember him? He bullied his way in the first game, right? Let him try that now. We need a heavy like Taane to bully him back.

Secondly, offensively, Taane attracts attention anywhere he is on the court. Unlike Brandon Bates, he is a pick-and-roll AND a pick-and-pop option.  And with three point range and dribbling skills to boot. Guys, that is a luxury to have. In ANY team.

Thirdly, having Taane around really makes our bigs very flexible. Santi guarded Ravena. Baltazar held his own vs Kouame. Bates blocked and boxed out Kouame. You follow?

Fourth, Taane is a fighter. Too much of a fighter actually. Keep your head bro. Let the others lose their cool. We can’t afford T’s and suspensions at this point. But continue with that fighting attitude. Bully back.

I could go on and on an on, so let’s end this for another day, and move on to the more important game, UP on Wednesday.

Again, although we lost, this was a good learning template for us. The coaching staff has tons of learnings that they can pick up in this game. And the mobkey of the twice to beat chance is off our backs, so less pressure now. More importantly, they now know a Taane Samuel, with an adequate fitness level, is now available in the rotation.

Guys, I have a very good feeling that we will go farther than anyone (of course including Fox), ever expected of us. But we have to put in the work, specially our strategists, our coaches. All the pieces are now available.

On to UP. On to the Final Four. And if God wills it, on the the finals. And the CHAMPIONSHIP.

We are almost there!!!!!! BELIEVE!!!! ‘