The View From the Armchair – Game 10 vs Ateneo

It was a tough day at the office for our young Green Archers yesterday. As they were getting blown away by the defending champs, 74-57, the team looked like a bunch of youngsters playing with opponents a few years older than them. Which just about describes it perfectly. It was an old-fashioned beating administered by a well coached, well drilled veteran team to our young ‘uns.

This was our first loss by a wide margin, and it was also the first game we were dominated for practically the entire game. Ateneo came prepared for our press and for our standard defenses, they knew what to do, while our players were always reacting to what the Blue Eagles did. And our standard plays were well scouted, as were our players’ tendencies. Our picks, our staggered screens, our pick-and-roll plays, all were well defended proactively. Our team lost its composure early to trail at the half 21-39, and the game was effectively lost at that point. For everything we tried to do, there was an effective counterpunch. They were prepared, while we were surprised. The result wasn’t unexpected.

That having been said, it’s probably fortuitous that we lost this way at this point in time. The loss exposed our weaknesses, and now the challenge is to plug the holes in the Archer game. Yes, as Coach Dindo said, the team didn’t play Archer basketball, but much of that was due to the way the Blue Eagles forced us out of our game. After yesterday’s exercise in “what not to do”,  it’s unlikely that our team will permit the same thing to happen to them in the succeeding games.

What went wrong

Lots of things.

We lost the game in the first half, when Ateneo came out of a timeout staring at a 9-4 deficit to string together 15 straight points to open up an 8point lead, 11-19, at the end of the first quarter. Our shellshocked players were unable to respond when Ateneo poured in 10 unanswered points to extend the lead to 18 at 11-29, and the game was lost. The early loss of composure and confidence told on our young players, and they were thoroughly outplayed the rest of the way. The pumped up Blue Eagles repeatedly beat them to the “50-50” loose balls, won the battle of the boards, 36-46, and stole more balls than we did, 5-8.

Our perimeter shooting, a key weapon to open up opponents’ defenses, was missing in action. Only 2 out of 18 3point attempts went in. Only 1 out of 11 in the first half, terrible considering that Blue Eagle chief gunner Long went ¾ from long distance in that same period. Our shooters were tightly covered, and their shots went awry partly because of the way they were defended.

Defense, a trademark of the Archer game, was also notably absent. For the first time, an opponent broke 70 in regulation against our team. The Blue Eagles repeatedly found the gaps in our zone defenses, cutting and getting the ball in prime position to score at close range. We were unable to bother the passes, and Ateneo got away with 23 assists to our 13. Our standard press was well scouted and easily broken even though Ateneo did not have legitimate pgs aside from Monfort. And any miscues were punished swiftly with turnover (18) and fastbreak points (17).

Our rebounding took a hit, as our bigs were unable to keep the Blue Eagles away from the boards. Rookie Art dela Cruz got away with a double-double with 10 rebounds and the same number of points.

Our offense sputtered after we took that 9-4 lead, and only Jovet was able to do anything about getting points on the board. In the second half, he scored 20 out of our total of 36 points. No other Archer was in double figures.

And fts. What can we say? A miserable 15 out of 29, barely over 50%. Maui missed 7 out of 8 of his free throws. Sam made 2/2 and Jovet made 10 out of 12.

What went right

Oh, a few things, to be sure.

Jovet played a career game in the second half, where he scored all of his 20 points in addition to pulling down 6 boards (3 offensive) against the taller Blue Eagle frontline.

Our pressure defense, while largely ineffective, still forced 20 turnovers while we lost the ball 16 times. Not good enough, though. Ateneo matched us in fastbreak and turnover points, so we were not able to gain any competitive advantage in these areas which are usually the source of our quick points.

Surprisingly, our 2point accuracy was at par with Ateneo’s, at 45%. We did outscore them in the 4th quarter, 17-13, but this was when the game was already beyond recall.

The way our players refused to respond to the taunting and trash talking of their opponents speaks volumes about what this team is all about. They played hard, but kept matters strictly to basketball, refusing to play the mind games of the Blue Eagles.

The rookie watch

Papot Paredes played 21 minutes, but was a bit overawed against the tall Ateneo frontline and pulled down only 4 boards and had 1 block. Luigi dela Paz played the same number of minutes, but only tallied 3 points, 2 assists, and 1 steal while playing against the much more experienced Ateneo guards. Oda Tampus managed 5 points, while Almond Vosotros played only 6 minutes and contributed one rebound.

The sophomores

Sam Marata, obviously still recovering from an illness, was fielded in for 9 minutes, and scored 4 points while being tightly marked throughout his stint. Yutien continued his quiet accuracy from the field, hitting 3/6 but pulled down only 2 boards. Gab played only 3 minutes.

Looking forward

So notch this loss to experience. This young team doesn’t have a lot of that yet, so everything new is a lesson. They learn their lessons well, and we can expect that the next time, there will be fewer things that will surprise them. And if they encounter the same game plan or something similar in our future games, they’ll know how to deal with it. If you think about it, this team has already overachieved with still 4 games to go.

Up next is tournament leader FEU, another team with top-notch guards and a tall and agile frontline. We almost upended the Tams in the first round, losing in 2 overtimes. However, the element of surprise on our part is mostly gone. So let’s see how resilient the young Archers will be coming from a bad game, and how well they respond against another veteran team in the Tams.