Guess who blinked in the crunch?
In a complete reversal of their first round match with FEU, the Green Archers slugged it out toe-to-toe with the frontrunners for 3 quarters, stayed within striking distance, then played lockdown defense down the homestretch to win comfortably, 80-66. Staring at a 3point deficit at the end of 3 quarters, 54-57, and facing the same team that exposed their inexperience en route to a come-from-behind win in 2 overtimes in their last encounter, the Archers dismantled the league’s best offensive machinery, holding them to almost 11 points below their average of 76.9 points.
With the win, the Archers improved their record to 7-4 and now have a foot in the door of the final 4. Team Captain Simon Atkins bucked a facial cut in the first half to spark the team in the second half, ably supported by rookies Luigi dela Paz and Oda Tampus who also finished in double digits.
For the second straight game, the Archers dumped 80 points on the Tamaraws, but this time we did it in 40 minutes. In contrast, FEU managed only 66 points, proof that it was our defense that was consistently good; they scored 68 against us after 4 quarters in the first round to force the first extension. This time, the Archers would not allow a repeat, clamping down on defense to hold the Tams to 9 points in the final quarter while scoring 26 to win pulling away. The superb team defense the Archers threw at FEU for 40 minutes reduced the Tams to a bunch of individualistic players, who still managed to score but only through their solo efforts.
What went wrong
Although the team played superbly, there are still some things that need fixing.
The team racked up 16 turnovers which FEU converted into 10 points. As the race to the final 4 gets tighter, every point could help determine the outcome of the game. The team can’t afford to give many freebies to the opponents. There were some oops! moments in the game, most notably when Jovet gave Ferdinand a facial as Ferdinand was setting up for a pick. Oda Tampus did have a great offensive game, but he will need to be much more careful with the ball. He usually operates inside the paint, does score, but tends to give back what he scores; yesterday he led the team in TOs with 4.
The team also tallied only 13 assists, slightly below their 16 assists per game average. Perhaps some of that was due to the accuracy of our field goal shooting from the two point region, but playing the team game to the hilt is behind the success of the Archer game.
What went right
The defense was great – 40 minutes of unrelenting pressure that climaxed in the 4th quarter where the Archers held FEU to 1 assist, 2 field goals, made them miss all 3 of their 3pointers and flub 7/9 of their 2point fgs, rattled them into 4 turnovers, fished 10 fouls from the Tams which the Archers converted into 10 fts. So effective was the defense in the final period that no Tamaraw scored more than 2 points.
UAAP leading scorer RR Garcia did have 18 points, but 13 came in the first half, 5 in the 3rd, and he was held scoreless in the 4th. In a desperate attempt to get him back into the flow, FEU coach Capacio repeatedly pulled him in and out to try to settle him down and give him instructions, all to no avail. This time, Garcia was unable to play hero despite playing 8 minutes in the final quarter, missing both fg attempts that he managed to get under heavy duress. Our tag-team defenders composed of Simon, Almond, Luigi, and Oda made life difficult for him, and by the fourth he was unable to contribute anything except a turnover.
In contrast, during the 4th period, we had 26 points, 4 assists, 3 blocks, only 1 TO, went 2/5 on 3pointers (both Simon’s) and made 5/9 of our 2pointers, sank 10/13 fts, pulled down 12 rebounds, and had only 4 fouls. What was impressive was the steadiness of our players from the foul line in the 4th quarter, when the pressure was on – they missed only 3 to preserve our lead and demoralize the FEU players. We had only 1 turnover and blocked 3 FEU shots. Probably the best quarter the team has played this entire season.
The rebounding was great. In a complete reversal of rebounding fortunes, our bigs kept their counterparts away from the boards, allowing only 9 offensive rebounds against the 20 FEU had against us in the first round. FEU was only able to manage 32 rebounds for the game, down 20 from their total in the first game. Their failure to control the rebounds limited FEU to only 52 fg attempts in total, almost a third of which came from the 3point area. In contrast, we had 67 tries from the field, with 17 coming from long range (the same as FEU).
Our shooting accuracy was good for once. We sank almost half of our 2pointers, 24 out of 50, and 20 out of 26 of our free throws. Talk about confidence and concentration. By the way, remind me not to complain too much about the free throw shooting. The team made them when it mattered
Everyone played their part, no matter how limited their minutes were. Ferdinand hauled down 3 rebounds and made both of his fts in 10 minutes, and Joshua Webb made his only attempt for 2 points and stole the ball once.
Grace under pressure, steadiness from this young team. They really have learned from the last game, because gone were the vestiges of uncertainty and in its place was a steely resolve to upend the favored team.
The rookie watch
Luigi was heavily utilized yesterday, logging the second most minutes at 26 behind Simon’s 27, and contributing 12 points on 50% shooting from the field and 5/6 from the foul line, 6 rebounds, 4 assists in an excellent all-around performance. Oda Tampus hit double digits with 10 on a variety of drives while making life difficult for RR Garcia on the defensive end. Almond finished with 5 points and pulled down 6 rebounds on top of 1 assist and a steal. Papot Paredes broke the ice with the first basket of the game, but was able to contribute only 2 rebounds in 12 minutes; he still helped muzzle the Tamaraw bigs.
Sam has quietly added a new dimension to his game with his ability to drive and dish. Still recovering from his recent bout with illness, he missed all his fg attempts, but showed his skills in penetrating to draw the interior defense to him before passing to open teammates thrice. Yutien continued his good work in the paint, hitting all 4 of his fg attempts while pulling down 6 boards on top of 3 blocks. Joel had two nice drives and the same number of assists with 1 steal.
Gab, Nico, Martin, and Aiki
There is also an interesting possible sub-plot with FEU’s loss. For the past 3 years, FEU has imploded at around this time in the tournament. Three years ago, they abruptly dropped their center Gerilla for unknown reasons. Two years ago, Baracael was shot and wounded amid rumors on game fixing; nothing has come out of the criminal investigation into the shooting. Last year, national team pg Barroca was suddenly cut from the team. Will this loss spark another witch hunt within the FEU team?
We still have to play UST, Adamson, and UE. Another win assures us of a tie for the 4th. Two wins assures us of a playoff berth, and 3 wins puts us in contention for the twice-to-beat depending on how the other teams fare in their remaining games. With the loss of UE to NU today, only NU and UST have a chance of catching up. To avoid any complications, the team must take it one game at a time, play the same kind of a game they had yesterday.
KEEP THE FAITH!