Surprising? Frustrating? Disappointing?
All applicable one-word adjectives to describe how many La Sallian diehards felt following yesterday’s performance of the Green Archers. This morning-after hangover is a biggie after that 30-point beatdown at the hands of the UP Maroons in game 1 of the UAAP S86 finals.
The 8-game Taft winning streak led many followers to believe that the Green Archers would get a great start in the short 3-game finals series. Nobody expected that rout, not even the most rabid UP supporters. The margin was arguably the biggest in a UAAP finals game, surprising because the Archers were competitive in the early goings of the first quarter. A few mental lapses towards the end of the first half opened the floodgates for UP with a 12-point advantage we never overcame.
The team was clearly thrown off their game by the physical, roughhousing, and aggressive tactics thrown at them by UP. Throughout the game, the Maroons got away with hand-checking, pushing, grabbing, and bumping the Archers all over the floor. There were subtle and not-so-subtle physical and trash-talking tactics employed by the UP players. The refs ignored the majority of these actions, probably all in the spirit of letting the players play because it was the finals.
Although they must’ve prepared for this game, the Archers seemed shell-shocked by the intensity of the UP game, and never got on track to play their game. Leading MVP candidate Kevin Quiambao was held to 11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, while chief playmaker Nelle was limited to 8 points and just 2 assists. Sharpshooter Nonoy tallied only 5 points, and missed all of his six 3-point tries. On the upside, Mike Phillips flashed his Season 85 form, exerting a lot of energy and going for 19 points and 9 boards while battling UP import Diouf and the array of UP bigs thrown at him.
While the Archers had 18 assists on 27 made field goals and 11 free throw makes, they shot a paltry 38.6% from the field (27/70) and an unheard-of 8.7% from beyond the arc (2/23). The ring must have looked like the size of a pinhole for our team yesterday, while for the UP players, the goals must have been the size of an ocean. It seemed like anything and everything they threw up went in.
Our defense left much to be desired yesterday, as the Maroons repeatedly attacked our perimeter defenders with fast passes and good dribbling, getting into the paint for many uncontested field goals (they had 21). UP pounded the boards, getting a total of 55, 17 of which came on the offensive end (our blocking and rebounding needs work), and were faster to the hustle / effort plays and 50-50 balls. We definitely looked half-a-step slower.
The rattled Archers turned the ball over 18 times, giving UP 24 points off turnovers (we had only 2 points from the 7 UP TOs). UP’s aggressive thievery netted 12 (!) steals while we managed only 4.
Surprisingly, Coach Topex fielded in 15 of his available 16 players, trying to find combinations that would click, with most of the players having seen action by the 3rd quarter. Unfortunately, the mix-and-match approach didn’t work, with role players not able to contribute in any meaningful way. The exceptions were Abadam and Gollena, who collectively played only 11 minutes but contributed 6 points behind a lot of effort.
The Morning After
It’s not all doom and gloom today. The sun rose as usual, and it’s been bright and sunny today. The tough lessons from yesterday’s game will have sunk in, the players will have rested and recovered, and the coaches (including the armchair variety like us) will have had time to dissect the performance.
There is another game at 4pm on Sunday, and the coaches and players still have 2 days to prepare. There’s time, although not a lot, to work on getting things right.
Just a few take-it-or-leave-it observations:
The Mental Aspect
The players might not have been mentally prepared, seeing as how they were jittery and apparently overwhelmed by the occasion. This could have affected their in-game judgment, and the game must have seemed to be in fast-forward all the time. Flustered and always reacting, never able to play their game, missing shots they usually make. The game has to slow down in our players’ eyes so they can anticipate and execute, not just react to what UP does. They have to make UP adjust to the Archer game, not the other way around. If there’s one word the team has to keep in mind, it’s “BELIEVE”. They can do it.
Most teams in the pro and amateur leagues use their full lineup during the eliminations, perhaps in order not to overexert their key players in preparation for the playoffs, but shorten the rotation when they make it to the next rounds. Yesterday, the usual elimination round rotations were still in place, and 15 players saw action. In the finals, it might be a good idea to field only a small core of 8-9 players, but sub them in and out frequently to let them rest; if someone gets hot, let him play. It’s only when a coach is looking for a ‘hugot’ to try to make an impact that the role players are fielded in. Coach Ramil does that when his teams get to the playoffs, and it works. Just sayin’.
Play Physical and Aggressive
For whatever reason, the refs aren’t blowing their whistles too much this finals, allowing incidental and not-so-incidental contact. UP gets away with a lot of stuff, and it stands to reason that if the Archers do the same, they might get away with it also. Of course, it has to be done properly and not too obviously. UP plays that game, and while they’re ready for it, a couple of bumps here and there can disrupt a play in our favor. The Archer game can usually be described as more of a finesse type rather than physical, but maybe it’s time to go with controlled aggression, played intelligently.
Whatever the outcome on Sunday, this is our team. Whether we extend the series or tip our hats off to UP, the team has the community’s full support.
As our resident writer Neal Tieng wrote in his article,
HINDI PA TAPOS ANG LABAN. MALAYO PA. BABAWI TAYO!
Photos courtesy of the UAAP Media Bureau