This team learns fast. The Green Archers avoided a repeat of last year’s second round loss to UP by routing the Maroons, 84-63 in their second round encounter. The comfortable win was an echo of their game in the first round which we won comfortably by 18. Once again, the Archers dismantled UP’s game, totally dominated at both ends, and never let up until the last couple of minutes with the game way beyond recall.
This game was also a reversal of pre-season expectations for both teams. Our young team was unfancied, was tipped only to improve on our 6th place finish last year, but was not expected to make the final 4. In contrast, at the beginning of the tournament, this Maroon lineup had UP supporters dreaming of a Final 4 finish. Prized recruit Mike Silungan and erstwhile coach Aboy Castro were even quoted in media as targeting a berth in the final 4. Well, they’ll get their wish, but not in the way they envisioned – with their 9th consecutive loss, they are assured of finishing in the final (last) 4, most probably in the dead last position.
With the game out of reach, Coach Dindo had the luxury of playing his entire lineup except for Sam, who was in sickbay. 14 out of the 15 players who saw action scored at least a point. Only Maui (22) and Simon (24) saw more than 20 minutes of playing time, as Dindo rotated his players frequently to give everyone at least 6 minutes on the floor; only Aiki Herrera had less minutes with 3.
The win also solidified our position in 4th place with a 6-3 record, at least 2 games ahead of NU and UST, both of which tote a 3-5 record heading into the crucial weekend matches.
What went wrong
Not too much, given the dominating win, but there’s still much room for improvement.
Let’s start with free throws. The Archers returned to hitting over half of their foul shots, making just 11 out of 18 for a low 61%. Only Almond was perfect from the stripe with 3 makes out of 3 tries. Everyone else who went to the foul line missed one (and only one) each: Oda, Gab, Simon, Ferdinand, Nico, Papot, and Aiki.
Yutien, Papot, and Joshua had sub-par games, tallying only 6 points, 1 rebound, 3 blocks, and 7 turnovers between them. However, while Joshua continued to misfire, both Yutien and Papot were more accurate, each making their only fg attempts.
While the defense was dominating and we had 9 steals, UP was often able to capitalize whenever an attempted steal was unsuccessful, getting the ball into the gap for open layups. Against teams with better ballhandlers and passers like Adamson, Ateneo and FEU, such gambles may backfire. Some loose offensive play also permitted UP to get 6 steals and block 7 of our shots. And while our turnover rate (17) was low, we cannot give the ball back to the stronger teams that often.
We won the battle of the boards, 52-48, but allowed UP to grab 23 offensive boards; more boxing out will be required against the top 3 teams whose bigs are more active and effective offensively. Ferdinand again came off the bench and played a solid support role with 5 points, 2 boards, a steal and a block. Jovet did the most damage on the boards with 9, followed by Maui with 8, and Oda with 7.
What went right
Good points distribution – 4 players in double figures led by Maui (14), Oda and Gab (11 each), and Almond (10). Good 3point accuracy with 7/14 coming from 5 players – Simon and Gab (2 each), and Almond, Luigi, and Joel each with a trey. In fact, the team was less accurate from closer to the basket, hitting 26 out of 67 for 39%. Sharing the ball produced 24 assists, the most the team had this season. Simon assisted on 9 baskets, Nico on 5, while Luigi and Maui had 3 each.
The hustle and quickness of our players allowed them to get to the majority of 50-50 balls, and the aggressive defending forced 28 turnovers, including 3 in the first minute which effectively dictated the tone of the ballgame. In particular, our defense focused on the key Maroons, causing Silungan, Sison, Co, and (Mikey) Reyes to each turn over the ball at least 3 times each, 15 in total for these 4 players. Our bigs accounted for 4 blocks and altered several others, led by Yutien with 2, while Papot and Ferdinand had a block each. The team executed the defensive play particularly well, disrupting the UP offensive but giving up only 11 fouls in the process.
Maui moved well without the ball, cutting along the baseline to receive passes from our guards for undergoal stabs; his close-in operations netted him 7 out of his 9 attempts. Oda Tampus finally had his breakout game, tallying 11 points on 5/11 field goals on his trademark slashing moves. Gab Banal made up for lost time, shooting 2/3 from rainbow territory and making his only fg attempt to go with 3 fts for 11 points. Almond again played a superb game at pg, scoring 10 points, pulling down 6 boards, and picking UP’s pocket 3 times.
The way the coaches meted out playing time in the game provided our players with the much-needed game time exposure and experience. They way they’ve been improving on a game-to-game basis, hopefully they will be able to parlay their learning into a better performance in the remaining games.
The rookie watch
Oda finally hit his stride, scoring 11 points in 15 minutes. Oda gives us the threat of another slasher aside from Joshua, but Oda shows the promise of a bit more versatility in his shotmaking. Almond again was very efficient, scoring 10 points in only 13 minutes almost nonchalantly while still playing the role of ball distributor to the hilt. His rebounding numbers and assist-to-turnover ratio are probably among the league’s best. Luigi was off from the field but still managed 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 steals. Nico maximized his 14 minutes, scoring 3 points, pulling down 2 rebounds and assisting on 5 of his teammates’ shots while playing his usual hard-nosed defense on the opposing pgs. Papot saw limited action, only 6 minutes, 2 points and 1 block. Aiki scored his first point of his collegiate career, while Martin had 2 rebounds, some nifty spin moves but failed to score.
Gab played a good, all-around game, gives us another credible outside threat who can at the same time play lockdown defense on his man. Joel played limited minutes, but was very accurate from the field, hitting 2 out of his of his 3 field goal tries. Yutien had a quiet 15 minutes with 2 points.
The game served as a good tune-up for our game on Sunday against Ateneo, which likewise warmed up by shellacking NU in the second game today. With both teams seeming to peak, Sunday’s game will be decided by which team wants the win more. If Ateneo wins, they stay in step with Adamson for second place, but if we win, we tie them. With our young and surprising team, anything can happen.