“La Salle’s got your number, and what’s more, one more loss, and you’re on your way home.”
63 points, 60 rebounds, and 32 turnovers later, the De La Salle Green Archers, led by Tyrone Tang’s 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists, and JVee Casio’s 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 assist, escaped with a win over the UE Red Warriors. The boys in red were paced by Hans Thiele’s 7 points, 16 rebounds, and 1 block, Marcy Arellano’s 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal, and Mark Borboran’s 13 points and 8 rebounds.
In my view, La Salle didn’t “win” the game. They “stole” it. UE shot itself in the foot by committing 32 turnovers, a season high for any team in the UAAP (Ateneo had previously held the dubious record with 29 turnovers in a pivotal loss to National University), and it didn’t help that they seemed flustered, at times, when JVee Casio and Tyrone Tang sacheted down the throat of their zone defense. Perhaps the “sweepers” were rusty? Perhaps the big game atmosphere daunted the UE stars, who, after all, are all at the big dance for the very first time?
Butterflies and inexperience aside, Coach Dindo Pumaren, in my view, has to find a way to quell the following Green Archer “hotspots” if his team hopes to live to see Game 3:
-Improve perimeter defense and overall defensive rotation: Cholo Villanueva, Tang and Casio live and die on transition, and on screen and rolls. La Salle got too many open pull-ups in Game 1, and because UE couldn’t always respond in kind, or handle the contests’ pressure in stride in terms of execution, they paid for their lackadaisical stance on D. This has to change if they intend on winning the second round. Man for man, the Warriors and the Archers are pretty well matched. It all comes down to who executes the sets in a more disciplined way.
-Give Mark Borboran more touches on offense: The UE Red Warriors don’t necessarily have a superstar player they can turn to on offense, but it cannot be denied that forward Mark Borboran is their best option going upcourt. Borboran is an inside outside lefty threat who, for certain stretches in Game 1, had a height mismatch working in his favor when up against La Salleans like Cua and Villanueva.
Why go to Mark Fampulme in the low block on a crucial possession when you have Mark B. on your side? Sure, UE dialed him up to take the final shot of the game, but still, I would’ve tried to given him many more cracks at the hoop than he did. Maybe if he had gotten a solid twenty points, UE would have claimed victory.
There is such a thing as being “too unselfish” after all.
-Speed up the tempo of the game even more: The UE Red Warriors are kind of like the Phoenix Suns of the NBA- long, athletic, and quick. What do the Suns do when things go rough? Why, speed the game up even more, of course, and rely on the savvy of their floor general (in this case, it’s the very capable Marcy Arellano), to see them through. UE can afford to push the tempo every time down the floor.
La Salle will probably continue to look to employ a similar strategy come Sunday, and since UE is the bigger team size-wise, one might think that Dindo’s boys out to resort to slowing things down and subjecting themselves to playing a knockdown-dragout sort of ballgame. Why stray from your strengths, though? I think UE should keep the pace quick, and while La Salle might be able to keep in step through several stretches throughout the ballgame, I think that UE’s usually accurate playmaking and athleticism should see them through to victory. A La Salle kind of game is one that has a deliberate pace (so as to create opportunities for their bigs), with flashes of speed (for Tang and Casio who like to score on the go).
While the Red Warriors should seek to hasten the game’s pace, they should not forget about maintaining their poise in relation to the basics (swinging the ball around, giving their main guns touches, etc). La Salle likes to screen and roll and let Tang, Villanueva, Casio, and Malabes ”snipe around” for buckets. The red side can counteract this on offense by spacing out their men well, and cashing in on openings created off good ball movement. Quick passes, coupled with an athletic 5-prong attack from all angles, in the open court, is where UE shines the most.
Although I have told friends in the last couple of days that I personally feel that La Salle’s hunger will find a way to snag the title from the pressure-layden Red Warriors’ fingertips, I think UE still has a legitimate chance to turn their Game 1 “disaster” (it was chaotic by UE 2007 standards) into a Game 2 triumph. Step one towards doing that will be to just relax, and then from there, execute.