It was one of those games where the team tried and tried but simply couldn’t get any rhythm going.

For the Falcons’ go-to players, it was a nightmare. The same could be said for the Archers. The difference was that the Archers’ role players stepped were allowed to step up and they did. Despite the lack of production from Jeron Teng and Almond Vosotros while Norbert Torres and Arnold Van Opstal sat on the bench, the Archers were able to take on whatever the Falcons had planned and snuffed it out with ease. Fans could see that Jansen Rios was getting frustrated as he began lugging long bombs to try and clear space for his drives.

While both teams played poorly, the reasons are different. Adamson played poorly despite having their best roster on the floor, while De La Salle used this time to teach green horns and give them an opportunity to grow. Seeing how only Kib Montalbo played more than 30 minutes among the Archers, the Taft-based squad was clearly not even trying.

Reviewing the Keys of the Game

Try to score from the outside

They really should have. Yes, the Archers were smaller than usual this game with Abu Tratter starting in place of Norbert Torres or Arnold Van Opstal, but Tratter was still rather big and the Archers’ defense was really tight inside.

Adamson only made three of their 14 attempts from outside, a big bunch of which were ill-advised attempts by Jansen Rios, Ivan Villanueva and Don Trollano. Surprisingly, it was Axel Iñigo and Ryan Monteclaro who should have been the main focus of the Falcons’ offense. Ryan and Axel only got  usage rates of 18.2% and 15.5%  respectively; this is a shame considering they had a high 115.1 and 120.5 offensive rating this game. Had the ball gone to them more often than Jansen Rios who had a 28.7% usage rating but a dismal 59.5 offensive rating, the Falcons might have stuck in the game longer.

What I especially liked was how the two of them ran the offense while on the court together. Whenever either of them had the ball, the other was running off screens or sometimes setting the screens which in turn translated to good shots for both themselves and their teammates. The Falcons need to realize that they lack off-ball movement and that both point guards are able to run a sustainable offense without relying on isolation plays.

Stay in the zone

They did and La Salle spent all game breaking it. To some degree their zone was working. Jeron Teng was having difficulty getting his drives, Jason Perkins was constantly turning the ball over in the post and the Archers didn’t really have a reliable outside threat, that was until Kib Montalbo started draining his jumpers.

Yes, the mid-range jumper is one of the biggest sins in basketball especially if taken just a foot inside the three point line. But for the zone the Falcons applied, it was necessary. Montalbo was 9 of 12 from the field and 0 of 1 from beyond the arc. All he really needed to do was loosen up the zone enough to a point where the Falcons wouldn’t think of challenging his shot and he could make them comfortably.

Ultimately, had it not been for Montalbo’s mid-range jumpers hitting the mark as often as they did, the game might have been a close one. However, La Salle still saw past the zone and fed Yutien Andrada underneath the basket for some quick layups. Andrada could have easily been another zone breaker for the Archers as he made every one of his three attempts in the paint. The only reason he didn’t have a big impact was because Coach Sauler limited him to eight measly minutes. Had he needed, Andrada could’ve played longer and dealt more damage than he did.

Be Gatsby Ready

Pleasantly surprised that they actually were. The Falcons limited Jeron Teng to two points the entire game and not a single field goal. They also reduced Perkins to a single field goal. Usually this would be a cause for celebration. Unfortunately in the process of limiting these two main guns of La Salle (three if you count Vosotros’ 4 of 11 shooting), the Falcons allowed the backup Archers to get some in-game target practice going.

As mentioned earlier, Montalbo was 75% from the field, Prince Rivero was 4 of 7 from the field and Andrada was perfect. Instead of a game which was filled with variety, it became an exercise on how to play without the offensive production of their main guns and how to break the 2-3 zone. The Falcons turned into a test dummy where turning the ball over didn’t have too much of a consequence. Aside from the win, La Salle came out of this game a lot stronger and better because they now have in-game experience of breaking the zone.

Final Thoughts

If the Falcons were to salvage anything from this game, it would have to be those few moments of offensive brilliance in the fourth quarter. Whenever the two point guards were running the show, the offense moved a lot more fluidly especially on the off ball. Ryan Monteclaro and Axel Iñigo have to realize that they are valuable outside threats for their team and that hitting off a pinch post can open up opportunities for their teammates inside.

Another difference I noticed between the teams is the coaching attitude. When Dawn Ochea came into the game for the first time, he immediately turned the ball over on a backing violation. He was immediately benched. Abu Tratter had two turnovers and five missed opportunities, not to mention other blunders that would have made any coach pull his hair out, yet he played 28 minutes, the longest of any Archer in that game other than Kib Montalbo who was having a career game.

Even if Coach Juno wanted to rest his injured players, there was no reason to limit Teng, Perkins, Andrada or anyone else’s minutes. In fact, if he really wanted to, he could’ve unleashed Andrada a lot earlier and for longer to do another NU, but he didn’t.

This is the approach the Falcons need. The coaching staff has to decide on the system they want to go on, and from there stick with it. Every game has to be about teaching the players how to run the system and not about adjusting the system anymore. In this game, the Falcons were trying to go for a win, benching unproductive players and limiting the rotation to eight players. This might be excusable in the finals, when they’re playing for all the marbles and they can afford to field only the best, but in the regular season, while rebuilding and while looking to let your roster grow, this is counter-intuitive.

The Falcons aren’t going to be a winning team in the near future, that much is sure. They will need to invest on those players who will be the veterans of future Falcons teams to come.

When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two and I know it was not that blow that did it but all that had gone before.

Jacob Riis