The Green Archers opened the 73rd season of the UAAP with a shocker of sorts – an 80-62 win over the UP Maroons, who this early are fancied to reach the Final 4. The win surprised many, including the tv coverage panel who had expected the more experienced UP team to pull off a win over our young Archers. Instead, the Archers led from the opening tip-off and never trailed as they finished off the stunned Maroons with a flourish.
A Great Start
Coach Dindo started with a relatively “experienced” lineup of Ferdinand, Tolentino, Webb, Atkins and Villanueva. Although first possession went to UP, the Archers served notice that their defense would be a major factor in the game as they stopped UP’s first offensive, then parlayed an interception by Tolentino into a fastbreak which netted Webb foul shots. Webb broke the ice for the season with a free throw, followed by 5 straight points from long range by Atkins 6-0. UP somewhat regained their bearings to close in at 8-7 on a Silungan trey, but Mendoza, in for Ferdinand who racked up 2 quick fouls, scored, 10-7.
Coach Dindo showed where his system differs from our team’s previous mentor, Coach Franz, by substituting early, putting in Andrada, Marata, and Vosotros with half of the quarter gone. Our press was clicking, forcing UP to eat up their shot clock just to get into shooting range, and an Atkins intercept resulted in Andrada being decked on the fastbreak by Padilla, who also attempted to rattle Yutien with some trashtalking which didn’t faze Andrada. Silungan kept it close with another 3 at 14-12, but Atkins, Paredes, and Marata combined to tow the Archers to a 19-13 lead at the end of the first period. The tenacious Archer defense only allowed Silungan to make a field goal.
The Archers threatened to break the game open at 30-21 after Atkins hit his 4th triple, but UP finished strong as Co and Silungan started hitting their shots from long range. The entry of rookie Saret late in the half breathed some life into the UP game as the Maroons closed in at 34-31. The Green-and-White team were slightly more accurate from the field in the first half at 32% to 28%, but were outrebounded by the taller Maroons, 20-25. The active defense netted 10 turnovers which we converted into 9 points.
UP stayed within striking distance in the early part of the 3rd quarter as the Archers started slow, but a Tolentino trey, a side jumper by Villanueva, and a Webb fastbreak gave the Archers their largest lead of the game at 45-35, forcing UP to sue for time. The Maroons last threatened at 54-47 before Andrada converted on a Marata assist to end the quarter at 56-47. Silungan attempted to close off the quarter through an isolation play, but he was closely marked and missed badly.
UP opened the 4th with a Co basket, but two fastbreaks by dela Paz and Atkins restored a double digit lead which the deflated Maroons were never able to cut down. The Archers ran away from their rivals to win pulling away, in a dominating show of force in the second half where they outscored UP 46-31.
What went right
The Archer pressure defense, which went into semi-hibernation last season, re-emerged with a slightly different look. The full court press was still there, with our quick guards harrying the ball handler from the baseline throw-in. The pressure forced the UP guards to be extra careful with their dribbling and passing, eating up the shot clock. Once they had crossed the half court line, the perimeter pressure continued, but the setup was difficult to determine, unpredictably shifting from a zone to a man-to-man. As a result, the plays called by the UP coaches were often not intended for our defense, creating some confusion and uncertainty in their offensive thrusts.
The perimeter defense was basically solid, but whenever a UP player entered the paint, a secondary defender would quickly shift to plug the hole, and the remaining interior defenders closed in as well. Half of the UP misses were pulled down by our team, preventing the taller UP frontline from capitalizing on their height advantage. Post plays by the UP interior players Sison and Co were limited by the tight marking and quick double teaming of any Maroon with the ball in the paint. The Archers also compensated for their lower ceiling by gang rebounding, led by Villanueva with 13 boards, while Andrada and Mendoza pulled down 7 apiece. Guards Vosotros, Tolentino, and Atkins pulled down 10 rebounds in total while leading the team in the hustle department. The Archers also played better as a team, out-assisting UP 16-13 and stole the ball 6 times compared to UP’s 2 steals. Active defense allowed us to match UP in blocks with 4.
The offense was very fluid, lots of crisp passing and off-the-ball movement creating imbalances in the UP defense that they exploited for penetrations and open shots, both under the basket and outside. Player positioning was also good, resulting in less errant passes because the players knew where their teammates were going to be. And with the number of Archers willing to take the middle-to-long distance shots, the Maroons didn’t know who to focus their defense on. The Archers also played up-tempo whenever possible, looking all the time for the quick outlet passes which they translated into fastbreak points against the scrambling safeties of UP. Very rarely were there any rushed shots, the players patiently swinging the ball around while probing the UP defense and ending up with the shots they liked. As a result, the 2point average was 44%, pretty accurate against the tough-defending Maroons.
The player development continued. Last year, Marata was merely a spot up shooter, but in this game he showed a willingness to put the ball on the floor and drive. He also was more active on defense and moved well away from the ball. Mendoza showed that he has fully recovered from his illness as he banged bodies with the taller and heftier UP frontline. Tolentino ably quarterbacked the team, concentrating more on ball movement and passing and leaving the scoring chores to his teammates. Among the rookies, dela Paz impressed with his playmaking and confidence under fire. Vosotros also put in a good account of himself with 5 rebounds and 4 points.
Team Captain Atkins played sg today, getting more touches and sparking the offense with 20 points on 7/13 shooting, including 4/9 from 3point range. He provided the much needed leadership for this young team with a good all-around game with 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 steals and 1 block.
Finally, foul shooting showed some improvement with the Archers hitting at a 65% clip, making 15 out of 23 attempts.
What wasn’t quite right
While the Green Archers hit 7 treys, they took 25 attempts. Atkins made 4, Marata 2, and Tolentino sank 1 but they hoisted 19 attempts in doing so. The heavy reliance on the long ball could backfire if the shooters have an off day, since our inside game doesn’t have as many threats. Our undersized frontline did well against their counterparts, but allowed UP to get as many offensive rebounds as the defensive rebounds they pulled down. Although the gang rebounding prevented UP from dominating, in future games, they will have to be more active in blocking out and keeping their men away from the boards.
The rookie watch
Only 3 rookies saw any playing time: dela Paz tallied 16 minutes, 6 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists and 1 steal, Vosotros played for 18 minutes, 5 rebounds (4 of them offensive), 1 assist and 1 steal, and Reyes logged 1 minute.
Banal, Tampus, Herrera, Elorde