After an overwhelming victory over NU a week ago to begin the second round, the Green Archers (4-4) shall now face the daunting task of handing the Blue Eagles (9-0) their first L of the season. The team finally won consecutive games and will look to keep the momentum going as they continue their climb to true contender status.
The last time they faced each other. La Salle started the match well and only trailed by two after the opening period. However, the team experienced a meltdown in the second quarter as they were unable to convert even the easiest of shots and were totally outhustled on both ends. Ateneo outscored them 28-8 in that quarter to build a sizable lead come halftime. The Green Archers regrouped and executed much better in the second half but the Blue Eagles were able to do everything that was necessary to secure the win. 69-81 was the final score.
What to Watch For
Ateneo’s Bench. Every game, they have guys that somehow are ready to step up when those that are expected to deliver just could not get it going or are in foul trouble. Just look at the first round game, La Salle was able to limit Thirdy Ravena and Angelo Koame, undeniably the two best players of Ateneo to just 6 points each. But we still lost!
Who topscored for them? Mike Nieto with 18 points! Seriously?!! 10 of the 12 players they fielded in were able to score at least 2 points. That’s the frustrating part, even when their starters are on a slump, the bench guys manage to successfully fill-in.
The Bigs. After tallying 25 points and 25 boards over NU, expect Justine Baltazar to be a marked man tomorrow as Ateneo is going to have a lot of defensive schemes thrown at him. Historically, he struggles offensively against the Blue Eagles. If the Archers are going to have a shot at this, Balti needs to perform exceptionally well. That means scoring at the high 20s and make a significant impact on the rebounding numbers.
Brandon Bates has shown remarkable improvement in the past 4 games and he will once again be counted upon to be a major contributor on the defensive side of the floor. Along with Jamie Malonzo who has been making the most of his athleticism in doing the other stuff besides scoring, this frontline shall continue to be La Salle’s main advantage in this game.
Making it Rain from the Outside. Accuracy-wise, the Green Archers lead the league in three-pointers. The Blue Eagles may be at the bottom in this category, but that is because they make a way lot more attempts. But in terms of actual shots made, the gap is quite close between the two teams so it’s basically pretty much even here.
A Better La Salle Team. Coach Jermaine Byrd thinks the team is better prepared to have the Blue Eagles this time as compared to their first round match-up.
“I think we’re a better team [than last time], our chemistry is a little bit better. Unfortunately, in the first round, we didn’t have a game to play. They were our first game. We’re now mentally ready to play that game. I’m looking forward to it. Our team is, too.”, he said.
In theory, they should be. At this point in the tournament, there’s no more room for experiments. The regular rotation is already set and players have already adjusted and embraced their respective roles in the team.
Of course, beating Ateneo is still easier said than done. It has to take an almost perfect game to beat the Blue Eagles as their system of play is so efficient. But looking at the pieces that La Salle has and how well they played these past games, they have the best shot among all other teams to score an upset.
Moving Screens. A lot of them.