If you look at our games with the bottom three teams this season, you will see that we were the team who benefited MOST from them. Why? Because no win was easy against these three. We did not blow them out of the water (except for that 20 point UE 2nd round win). We just made sure that we stayed ahead of them when the final buzzer sounded. This game was no exception. We had to fight tooth and nail the whole four quarters before finally getting rid of Adamson.
I APPLAUD and RESPECT Adamson, UE, and UP this season!!!!!! Their records did not reflect their fight. They didn’t roll over and die because of their depleted line-ups. I felt sorry for UP because on paper, they were not the worst line-up despite having the worst record. I guess a coaching change is in order for them because UP was in a lot of dog fights this season. And when you continuously and consistently lose almost all your close games, then that indicates that it is a coaches problem. Remember: Players win games, coaches lose them.
UE was a prime example of that. A coaching change came in too late I guess. But when it did, it put the fight and the pride back to the Red and White, when Boysie Zamar took over from Jerry Codiñera. I guess Jerry is a center, and his experience as a player is as a recipient of a lot of plays, or as a garbage man picking up rebounds and blocking shots. I have always believed that the best coaches are usually the point guards (Norman Black being the exception in this league). Adamson’s coach, Leo Austria is a very good one.
Why did I intro with these three teams? Well, plain and simple: Unwittingly, they HELPED us this season.
1. Playing these three teams allowed us to expand our rotation, to use more players. This toughened almost everyone, until little by little, our rotation evolved into an 8-9 man rotation, who consistently delivered for us. Remember that our ENTIRE coaching staff is new, and they had to discover which combinations to go to which will give us that consistency.
2. NONE of our games with these teams were sure wins. If we did not come prepared for them, they would have sprung COSTLY surprises on us. Ateneo found out the hard way with UE. They were just too far ahead in the standings for that loss to affect them significantly. We did not have that luxury.
3. We played these teams in the second round with injuries to our starters LA Revilla, and Yutien Andrada, and won. The biggest benefit to these developments was Almond Vosotros, who has emerged as a superstar. Oda Tampus re-appeared as a reliable player. Thomas Torres emerged as an able back-up right in his very first year (remember, TY Tang was not as good during his rookie year, playing in the shadows of Mike Cortez). If LA was not injured, Thomas would have come in after Vosotros and thus had more limited time that what he enjoys now. Arnold Van Opstal improved with more playing time because of Yutien’s injury. So, to make the long story short, our rotation deepened.
4. The team no longer panics, like in the first La Salle-Ateneo game. Sure we lost both games and sure that we lost them right in the first quarter. That’s inexperience. But remember that the second game saw Yutien and LA not playing. To rest them in that big (but essentially unimportant and I think, sacrificial game), was a brilliant coaches call. The coaching staff knew that we will need these two come play-off time and sure enough, we are ALMOST THERE, with these two well rested and getting back their game shape.
This game exhibited our mental toughness, thanks largely in part to these three teams. Remember, we played them 6 times total and won all 6. We split our two game mini series with all the contenders except for Ateneo. These bottom three teams were the teams that gave us a fight, and gave us the feeling of winning. The statistics don’t lie. Adamson came within 6 points of us only in two stretches: From the 7:34 minute to the 3:00 minute mark in the first quarter, and our scariest moments, from the end of the second quarter to 05:45 minutes left in the same quarter. After that, It was all La Salle. But we had to work for it. Adamson’s three point shots were booming and if we allowed loose defense on that, they would have erased us.
Well, we did our part. Now it’s up to FEU to beat NU. NU beating FEU will result into a three way tie for the last two seats, and hand 2nd place and twice to beat to UST. So the team we beat previous to this, is the team we cheer for on Sept. 23. Well, we will end up fourth and face souped up Ateneo. Tall order? DEFINITELY. Impossible? Remember UE? The answer is NO. Hey!!!! We have GAME TOUGHNESS now. And believe me Archers. We can take this ALL THE WAY this season. Everybody loves and underdog, specially a TOUGH one.
Keep the faith. ANIMO!!