Both the DLSU Green Archers and Lady Archers will open their respective championship campaigns in back-to-back tilts tomorrow, Saturday, December 3, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Green Archers will look to make a statement against the team that has provided the only dent in their season so far, the ADMU Blue Eagles. While La Salle has been number one in the standings all season long, recent inconsistent play has plagued DLSU in their run up to the finals. ADMU, on the other hand, has been on the rise after recently defeating FEU in a closely played semifinal series.
Similarly, the Lady Archers will seek redemption as they take on the NU Lady Bulldogs. The latter looks to take revenge on their opponent who defeated them in the finals back in Season 76. The former, however, aims to bring the championship back to Taft after finally getting back to the finals after three years. While both DLSU and NU have consistently been the second and first seeds in the last four seasons, NU is unquestionably the more dominant team after sweeping the elimination round for the third straight year.
Green Archers take on Blue Eagles
Elimination round encounters
Though the Green Archers and Blue Eagles ended the season as number one and two in the standings, respectively, both entered Season 79 with very different expectations. With Ben Mbala debuting for the team this year, many expected La Salle to be the league’s pacesetters, and that they were. ADMU, on the other hand, because of the losses of Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal, were expected to spend this year developing its young players. This exact scenario showed in the two teams’ first round matchup, when DLSU crushed the young ADMU squad en route to a resounding 97-81 victory over its rivals.
In the second round, though, the installation of Tab Baldwin as coach looks to have paid off as he has helped accelerate the growth of multiple Blue Eagles, including Isaac Go, Mike Nieto, and Thirdy Ravena. They were all major keys in ADMU’s 83-71 victory over the Green Archers at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Along with Aaron Black’s 17 points, the Blue Eagles executed a game plan that had La Salle reeling, sending the team to its only loss of the season. As Mbala has said, DLSU will use the loss as motivation for the upcoming finals. Conversely, the Blue Eagles will look to continue riding on the confidence that they gained from the biggest win of their season so far.
Finishing the dream season
For La Salle to end this season with a championship, the Green Archers will have to play much more like it did early in the year, asserting its size and dictating the tempo of the game. DLSU must also rely on its “mayhem” defense to carry it the entire season. “We just want to get it done, I mean the championship. This mayhem style of play just makes you want to get it done,” said Julian Sargent with the situation at hand.
It was the ADMU defense that puzzled the Green-and-White in their second round encounter. DLSU shot a woeful 29 percent from the field while committing 20 turnovers. Most of this can be attributed to a vast improvement in play from the Blue Eagle frontline. Led by a persistent Go, ADMU has overcome its lack of size by playing with more energy than its opponents. This was evident in the team’s last meeting, when 52 points in the paint in the first round encounter turned into just 34 for the Green Archers in their second meeting.
A factor for La Salle will be getting back to what it does best, which is turning turnovers into points. After leading the league in the statistic, they were only able to convert 26 Ateneo turnovers into just 10 points in the two teams’ second meeting. The Green Archers’ backcourt will be busy as they will try to pressure and trap ADMU’s guards from the get go.
DLSU will also have to show its dominance in the paint. The team will need players like Prince Rivero and Abu Tratter to step up and provide support to Teng and Mbala to take home the victory. Throughout this year, ADMU has not relied on just one person in the scoring aspect, but instead on a balanced attack from all its players. La Salle will need good performances from all five of its players on the floor if it wishes to avenge its only loss of the season.
With his experience as a Green Archer coming to a close, Jason Perkins commented, saying, “It will be nice ending it with a championship. I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to end it off with a title. I’m really trying to enjoy myself.”
Perkins, Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, and Julian Sargent are all playing in their final year of eligibility. The graduating players will look to end their respective collegiate careers on a positive note.
“First of all I want to thank them [the Lasallian community] for their support. I just hope to see them and just be with us in our last two or three games. We really promise to give our best and do whatever it takes to make the community proud,” said Teng.
Lady Archers out for redemption versus Lady Bulldogs
Elimination round performances
While both teams are at the top of the league standings, the difference between the two is evident. In their elimination round meetings, NU won both games in dominant fashion. In their first matchup, it seemed that DLSU, at the end of the first half, would have a chance to end NU’s winning streak. However, the defending champions proved to be too much to handle, going on a 17-0 run late at the fourth quarter to decide the game, 72-59. The Lady Archers failed to even the season series, falling again to their rivals, this time in a much more lopsided game, with credit going to the combined scoring of the Lady Bulldogs’ trio of Jack Animam, Gemmar Miranda, and Afril Bernardino.
The Lady Bulldogs cruised their way to the finals with a 14-0 record in the elimination round. After sealing their finals berth last November 15 against the UE Lady Warriors, they have waited 17 days before resuming action. Head coach Cholo Villanueva brings in experience to the team as he won the UAAP title back in 2007 with the Green Archers.
“My final year [as a player for DLSU], we played against an unbeatable UE team who had [a] 14-0 [elimination round record]. So for me, its a doable thing, but again, we just need to play the right way and play our game. Hopefully, we get the win and the championship.”
The rest period for NU may prove to be fatal since the Lady Archers are fresh off a 72-50 semifinal victory over UE.
Slaying the giants
Containing their opponents on offense will be a point of emphasis for the Lady Archers with the Lady Bulldogs having the most potent offense in the league, scoring an average of 80.5 points per game. DLSU, on the other hand, is third in points allowed per game with 64.4. Being one of the smallest teams in the UAAP, size will be a major problem for DLSU against the larger NU squad, which leads the league in points in the paint, rebounds, second chance points, and blocks. While their pace has been key for the Lady Archers despite their size, finding ways through the Bulldog transition defense will be a big hurdle.
“I think we’re the smallest team in the league. I think we’re number 6 or 5 in rebounding and that’s their advantage [in terms of size],” said head coach Cholo Villanueva.
Although being undersized imposes a huge matchup problem for their frontcourt, La Salle can rely on its perimeter offense and speed to set the tone of the game. As a result from their efficient ball movement led by point guard Camille Claro, the Lady Archers currently lead the league in three-point shooting percentage and perimeter scoring. Shooters Khate Castillo and Chay Vergara will be vital cogs in breaking down the NU defense.
Hindering NU’s trio is another key for La Salle. In their second matchup, the trio of Animam, Miranda, and Bernardino combined for 69 points collectively, refusing to be slowed down. After tallying 91.86 statistical points this season, Bernardino will be named the season’s MVP for the third time in her career. The other two do not fall back far from the MVP race, only trailing their teammate a spot down. Snow Penaranda will lead the attack down low in the post for La Salle. Penaranda finished fifth in the MVP race, providing her team with the inside presence the team lacks. On paper, it seems that NU will have the series in its favor. However, it might seem otherwise if the Lady Archers play their cards right.
The Lady Archers’ will tip-off against NU at 11 am, while the Green Archers play ADMU at 3:30 pm. Both games will be played at the Mall of Asia Arena.