When you drive through the hour and half long Ortigas traffic to sit courtside underneath the goal and witness up close how the Green Archers stood toe to toe with the Falcons to deal them their second loss it surely makes your day. There were no scoring drought runs this time, no late 4th quarter meltdowns, just pure hard-nosed defense and clutch three-pointers to seal the win. There is even no at-the-buzzer shot drama and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
By no means am I saying this was an easy win. Ahanmisi ignited for 24 points against UST despite being hounded by 6’3” Zach Huang and a couple of other tall forwards and Chauca heating up for 10 of his 18 points in the final quarter to defeat a tough contender. So how did La Salle do it?
Reading through the stat sheet and just by seeing them play, one can tell the team was able to execute coach JB’s game plan successfully. The prolific Adamson backcourt had their designated shadows with DLSU’s army of guards taking turns on Chauca beginning with Melecio and Ahinmisi being covered by no less than Jaime Malonzo. Unlike in the FEU game, we did much better controlling the defensive boards. When we play Malonzo at small forward they are a very tall team. And Balti, he just dominated all game long.
In the opening quarter, Chauca surprised his man by taking it 2 feet behind the 3 pt. Line and after that Aljun tightened it up splendidly the rest of the way. He may have sacrificed his scoring a bit to work much harder on defense but his presence remained a constant threat to keep ADM’s defense guessing. Caracut started strong with his drives and good ball distribution, and later finished even stronger, ending with a pair of clutch threes.
When Douanga got his 3rd foul in the 2nd quarter, Baltazar just went to town. They even tried to get Fermin to give Baltazar a rough time. After scoring on a low post with Fermin all over him, Balti stared him down and on their way back to the other end, whispered sweet nothings in his ear. I did not see Fermin play the rest of the game after that. With Baltazar’s dominance, we ended the half with an 8-point 41-33 lead scoring 21 points in the quarter after being down 15-21.
In the third quarter, ADM slowly ate up the deficit as Ahanmisi and Chauca imposed their will and found ways to score despite La Salle’s tough defense. Despite being outscored in the third the Green Archers hung tough with a slim 52-49 lead.
But in the payoff quarter, our main guys stood tall with Malonzo, Baltazar Melecio, and Caracut just answered Adamson’s offensive surge while Malonzo, Lojera, and even Melecio making key stops on the other end.
There was just more to it than the game plan being successfully followed. Joaqui Manuel did a lot more than just connecting two for two behind the three-point line. He was poking the ball off an Adamson pass to force a turnover, tapping an offensive rebound to his teammates, recovering for someone else’s missed defensive assignment, Man, his basketball IQ is just awesome! Meeker didn’t score and he may not even have attempted any shots. But he relieved our starters to quarerback without commiting any turnovers. The rookie Cagulangan can be seen twice huddling up his guys before an inboud play either reminding them of their roles are suggesting a play. And Lojera, he did the little things and gave his share of making Chauca’s life difficult. This game has made me appreciate having 6 combo guards and the new ones can only get better with more games.
I can go on and on but overall when the guys are beginning to truly understand the roles their coaches want them to play and each one’s skills are put into good use in a timely manner, then the coach’s system is gradually being established. And footprints of coach JB’s system has become more evident in this game as can be seen in the defense for offense substitution patterns, the team rebounding, and the defensive specialists having special assignments. They can carry this into their more daunting assignment on Wednesday when they face the talented UP Maroons. If we continue to play with even more developed chemistry, timely substitution, and better combinations on the floor like we what we saw in this game then we can grind it out with the best of them.