Payback! The Green Archers edged UST, 53-51 in a nailbiter of a game which looked like it might end up being a replay of the first round encounter. Like our first round encounter with UST, the game was decided in the last few seconds, margin of victory/defeat was also 2 points, but with a decidedly different, more satisfactory result.
Jeron lived up to his reputation as the league’s top rookie, nailing the marginal basket on a tough contested drive with less than a second left in regulation. Although he failed to score in double digits, that last shot more than made up for his earlier misses from the foul line.
The Archers won despite the absence of starters LA Revilla and Yutien Andrada, no easy feat since the two had combined for 35 points (on 14/26 shooting), 11 rebounds, and 5 steals in the first game against UST.
The win sure wasn’t pretty. We made only 16 field goals on 28.1% shooting, a far cry from our first game against UST where we shot 31/75 from the field. But while we shot a miserable 25% from inside the arc, our rainbow shooting was much better, generating 21 points with Almond making all of his 12 points from afar, and rookies Thomas and Jeron making 2 and 1 respectively. Our success from the long court prevented UST from crowding the paint, allowing Norbert, AVO, and Jovet to operate inside and score a total of 20 points.
UST led for most of the first half, aided by our early turnovers, but the team settled down after the halftime break to take the lead for good. The game was practically decided in the 3rdquarter, where we held the Tigers to just 10 points while we scored 17. At the beginning of the 4th, successive baskets gave us a 7point lead at 44-37, but UST battled back behind Abdul to tie at 51, setting the stage for that dramatic ending.
If we shot that badly, how did we pull off the win? Did UST have a bad game, or did we make it happen?
We did it to them. By taking UST out of their game.
Let’s look at how this game differed from our first round encounter.
It probably can best be summarized by saying that we forced them away from their comfort level and game plan.
Our defense made a huge difference in throwing UST off their game. In the first game which went to double overtime, we allowed UST to take 86 field goal attempts. Today, UST managed only 58. The perimeter defense, in particular, prevented the Tigers from even coming close to their earlier 9/23 shooting clip from beyond the 3point line. UST only managed 2/14 from long distance.
In the first round, UST took 15 foul shots, making 9. Today, they only had 6, making just 3 points. Our active defenders also disrupted the UST team game, and they only managed 11 assists, down from the 19 in the first round.
In the first round encounter, Clark Bautista torched us for 21 points on 6/9 3point shooting to go with 5 boards, 3 assists and 1 steal. Today, he managed to take only 4 attempts from the field and scored his only basket on a fastbreak. Aljon Mariano, who scored the marginal basket in the first round en route to 15 points on 7/14 shooting, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists was held to 7 attempts from the field, scoring 9 points, committed 4 turnovers in a dramatic reversal of his effective first round show, and to top it off, he fouled out.
We practically made Kevin Ferrer disappear. He was assigned as the primary defender on Jeron, and partially succeeded in limiting Jeron to 9 points, but failed to prevent that game-deciding basket. His first round performance of 5 points and 9 boards plunged to 2 points and just 1 rebound. Only Karim Abdul and Afuang managed to approximate their first round stats, scoring 14 and 9 points respectively, but were held to just 10 rebounds in total, and harassed into 5 turnovers.
UST may be in a slump, but our league-best defense had a lot to do with our victory.
What about our game?
Almond continued his good shooting performance, and is now again a threat to be reckoned with from long distance. His quick-release shot gave his defender fits today, and forced UST away from the zone.
Jeron didn’t score as much, but again, had to be closely marked whenever he was on the floor, preventing UST from going zone on a consistent basis. The threat posed by our tag-team backcourt of Thomas, Almond, and Mac also made the UST guards play active defense, taking away some of the bite from their offense; the two Jerics only combined for 13 points and 5 assists.
This time, our free throws went in consistently, 14 out of 17. 82%. Is that a team record?
Team play is coming to the fore. We had 11 assists on 16 field goals, not bad. But perhaps that would have been higher had our players made a higher percentage of their shots (we missed 41 out of 57).
Well, the turnovers were still at a constant concern, 20 in the game. UST took advantage, making 16 turnover points.
Despite the low scores, our offense is starting to take shape.
Almond has emerged as a double-barreled offensive player, able to score and assist. His versatility makes it imperative that defenders must work to stay in front of him, not an easy task since he’s perfectly capable of taking it past an overplaying defender, and can spot open teammates and get them the ball. LA poses the same risk to opponents. Jeron is always a threat in isolation, and can create by himself. Double team him, and he’ll find a way to get the ball to an open teammate.
Our emerging inside game makes it hard for defenders to leave our shooters alone on the perimeter. Jeron can hit the long ball consistently. LA, if cleared to play, can be deadly from afar, and can also drive and dish very effectively. Thomas introduced the league to his 3pointer today, so opposing defenses will need to extend to prevent open shots. Joshua can connect from afar, and his explosiveness will keep his guard from sagging away from him.
That leaves more than enough room for our bigs Norbert, AVO, Jovet, and Yutien (hopefully he’ll be fit by Saturday) to operate in the paint. They’ve developed enough moves to keep their counterpart frontliners busy, so double teaming any of our players might just create an opening for teammates.
Our defense and rebounding are tops in the league, making it difficult for opponents to score on us. It’s hard to say that we already have a 2-way game; maybe 1.5 sums up where the team is today.
We play our greatest rival Ateneo on Saturday. They’ve proven that they can win against the stronger teams, but our team is starting to peak. Hopefully we’ll have enough weapons to throw at the Blue Eagles. Let’s see on Saturday.
As APCom’s FGT and docgorio like to say, “JUST WIN!“.