One more game. One more win, and the title goes back to Taft. On Wednesday, the DLSU Green Archers will aim to put a close to the final chapter of UAAP Season 79 when they square off against the ADMU Blue Eagles in Game 2 of this season’s finals, which will continue tomorrow at 4 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game 1 proved to be an instant classic as La Salle and ADMU traded blows in the final moments until Jeron Teng’s layup and block helped the Green Archers escape with a 67-65 victory to move within a win of their ninth official league title. Despite holding a 15-point lead in the first half, DLSU needed a few lucky breaks and a clutch basket of Teng to sneak past their archrivals.
Calling the shots from the Letran bench in the Letran-San Beda finals series prior to this season, coach Aldin Ayo again finds himself in the midst of an intense rivalry. Nonetheless, he remains focused on the task at hand, saying, “It’s a big responsibility pero malamang, trabaho nalang ng maayos, make sure na ready ang team and gawin ang mga dapat gawin.”
Revisiting Game 1
Ben Mbala led all scorers with 20 points, but he missed nine of his 13 shot attempts and committed five turnovers. Nevertheless, he remained a solid presence in the paint as he turned away multiple ADMU shot attempts and hustled to the ball multiple times despite having to dive to the stands at the risk of injury. Aljun Melecio and Teng were the only other double-figure scorers for La Salle, with the former’s 12 points coming from four crucial three-pointers. The latter scored 10 points, the last two of which gave the Green-and-White the lead for good.
ADMU had only one double-figure scorer in Aaron Black, who had 12 points and rounded out his statline with eight rebounds and three assists. However, he and Adrian Wong failed to register any points in the final quarter. Chibueze Ikeh, who scored six of eight points in the fourth quarter, struggled to contain Mbala as he also finished with four personal fouls. Thirdy Ravena and Mike Nieto scored eight points each, but they only made three of their 15 field goal attempts in the finals opener.
On paper, DLSU came to play its brand of basketball against their archrivals, outrebounding ADMU, 49-43. The Green Archers were more fluid in terms of their offensive execution as they dished out 15 assists, four of which came from Andrei Caracut. Their defense was also at its best as they limited ADMU to four of 22 from behind the three-point line.
Contrasting game styles
Each has a unique style of play. DLSU is a team that has relied on its full court defense all season to create points. The Blue Eagles, on the other hand, as seen in Game One, will look to settle in a 2-3 zone defense for most of the game. Also, the Green Archers often look to pound the ball inside; specifically, to Mbala. Conversely, ADMU is a squad that relies on its perimeter players to create offense. Players like Ravena, Black, and Wong all have the opportunity to create their own opportunities, while big men like Isaac Go and Ikeh stay near the rim for possible offensive rebounds.
For a team that is considerably undersized compared to its opponents, it was actually the Blue Eagles that corralled more offensive rebounds and scored more second chance points. To go along with this, the two teams were equal in points in the paint, a statistic La Salle seemed poised to control.
In terms of defense, the Blue-and-White was able to force the Green Archers into five more turnovers, 21-16, while at the same converting more of these errors into points. Also, while Mbala did attempt 18 free throws, the two teams both ended up shooting the same amount, 30. For the Blue Eagles to force a winner-take-all game three, they will have to remain consistent throughout the game. What cost them a Game One victory was a very slow start that saw them trail, 19-6, in the first quarter.
To close out the series, the Green Archers should look to minimize their errors. Last Saturday, they allowed 21 turnovers, which ADMU translated into 21 points. Keeping their composure will also be vital as DLSU committed 16 of their 29 team fouls in the second half which led to their opponents shooting 63.3 percent from the line, allowing them to slowly comeback.
Offensively, keeping their shooting potent throughout the whole game will make things easier for the Green Archers. Ayo explains, “Ganun parin naman yung sistema namin pero mas nagpapasa kami, mas disiplinado.” In Game One, their shooting dropped from 56 to 38.46 percent after halftime, making way for ADMU to thrive on their struggles.