The Green Archers survived yet another potential 4th quarter meltdown to edge the NU Bulldogs, 59-56 in their first game of the second round. With the win, the Archers fortified their 4th place spot with a 5-3 record while creating some separation from closest pursuers NU and UST, both of which are at 3-5. The win was payback for NU’s victory in the second round last year which eliminated us from playoff contention. Interestingly, the final score was a point away from being almost a mirror image of their game in the first round, which NU won 55-59.
The Archers again displayed an inconsistent game, dominating NU in stretches but failing to score and allowing NU to come roaring back at the end. At least, in contrast to previous games against FEU and Adamson, they stood fast to pull off the win after NU came to within 1 point twice in the last quarter at 53-52 on a Terso drive with 2:11 to go, and again at 57-56 on another Terso layup. Surprisingly, it was a couple of rookies who bailed the Archers out: Papot scored inside the lane at 1:49 to stretch the lead to 55-52, and Vosotros nailed a layup on the break, 57-52, and again Vosotros converted 2 free throws, 59-56 with time down to 6 seconds. If this is an indication of the heart of our rookies, then the future indeed looks bright. Vosotros and Paredes combined for 11 out of the 16 Archer points in the final period.
What went wrong
A few things.
For the first time in a while, the Archers were outrebounded by an opponent 47-59. NU center Mbe again made his presence felt in the first half when he almost tallied a double-double with 9 points and 11 rebounds. However, the coaches adjusted the internal defensive setup and Mbe was limited to 6 points and 6 rebounds in the second half. NU pg Terso took up the slack and was able to get away with 12 points in the second half on a variety of drives to allow the ‘dogs to close in at the end.
Again, the Archer defense was penetrated by good post players and quick and agile pgs who were able to slash into the defense to score before our secondaries were able to switch.
There were only 12 assists, but this could also be attributable to the low field goal percentage of our team – 18/65 for 28% on 2point attempts. The team tightened up noticeably in the home stretch, some uncertainty on offense and a bit of miscommunication in defense that allowed NU to come back strong.
Again, the free throw malaise returned. The team shot a miserable 42% from the free throw stripe at 5/12. Notable offenders were Oda Tampus who missed 3 out of 4, and Sam Marata who missed both of his attempts. However, it should be noted that Marata was playing with a high fever which limited him to 6 minutes, all in the first half.
What went right
More than a few things. Hey, we got the “W”, didn’t we?
After being dominated by the NU bigs in rebounding 26-34 in the first half, the interior defense led by Papot, Maui, and Yutien were more assertive and competed on even terms in the 2nd half, 21-25. A pleasant surprise was provided by Ferdinand, who came off the bench to log 9 minutes of good support including a block on a taller Mbe.
Our active defense forced 25 Bulldog turnovers, picked NU’s pocket 6 times and blocked 7 shots, let by Papot’s 4 shot rejections. Papot and Yutien are starting to make the paint a difficult place for opponents to make shots.
Almond had his breakout game after deferring to his teammates in previous games. He scored 7 of our 16 points in the 4th quarter, including 4 out of the last 6 points (which were all scored by rookies). Again, he played a good all-around game with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and no errors while ably directing the Archer offense.
Maui Villanueva showed an uncanny nose for the ball, hauling down 11 rebounds and making life hard for the NU bigs underneath the basket. Gab Banal finally sank his first basket in S73, a 3pointer in the 2nd quarter with NU closing in fast. Simon Atkins also recovered from a sub-par game against Adamson, hitting 3 out of 4 from long range and assisting his teammates on 6 baskets. While Joshua Webb scored only 2 points, he unveiled some new spin moves in the paint, and once he perfects them, he will be much more unpredictable and difficult to stop.
And the team managed to limit their turnovers to 15, this disparity in turnovers allowing them to outscore NU on turnover points 22-10.
The rookie watch
As mentioned, Almond had a highly efficient game, shooting 1/3 from the long court and 5/11 closer to the basket. Papot started in place of Ferdinand, tallied 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 21 minutes. Nico Elorde played for 8 minutes, hit 2/3 of his shots for 4 points, ran the offense well, and played tough nosed defense on the NU pgs. Luigi dela Paz had an off shooting night but made up for it with 6 rebounds, an assist and a steal. Oda Tampus had a miserable shooting night, missing all his 5 pointblank shots and 3 out of 4 free throws; it is this inability to finish at close range (and his low shooting percentage) that is probably keeping him from getting more playing time.
Joel had a bit of off night, attempting and hitting his sole attempt for 3 points and pulling down 3 boards in only 13 minutes. Gab Banal finally saw some minutes, and also hit a trey aside from pulling down one rebound and getting a steal. Sam Marata was running a high fever, and saw only 6 minutes of action in the first half. Yutien spent his time harassing the NU bigs, pulled down 4 boards, blocked one and altered a few others, but continued his accurate shooting (1/1); Yutien was tied for 5th in 2point fg percentage in the first round, hitting 22 out of 38 attempts for a highly effective 58%.
The team needs to start playing consistently for 40 minutes. They’ve shown that they can outplay and sometimes dominate the opponents for stretches, like they did against frontrunners FEU and Adamson, but their game changes in the closing minutes, allowing their foes to close in and steal the game in the dying seconds, like NU almost did last weekend. Once they learn not to take their foot off the gas pedal, they can win more games, and the games will not necessarily be close.
We’re playing UP this Thursday before meeting Ateneo on Sunday. Except for our opening game against UP this season, the Maroons have always given us a tough time in the last 2-3 years. Despite their winless slate so far, UP cannot be taken for granted, the Archers must pull out all the stops and go for the win to maintain their 4th place standing.The UP game should help the team prepare for the much-awaited match against the defending champs.