In all forms and without any reservation, the UE Red Warriors had the upper hand over the UP Fighting Maroons in the penultimate game of the elimination round of Season 78 as they claimed a decisive 79-67 victory.
From the get go, it was pretty clear that it was UE who were the ones dictating the game, given the frenetic pace of action and the fullcourt presses applied by both squads. UP obliged to match the Red Warriors’ style, as suggested by the pace of the game at 86.5 possessions (right there with UE’s average pace this year). But it looked like they should have not done so, with the barrage of turnovers they committed (24.9% TOV) to which UE pounced on by scoring 27 points off.
Thanks to the early contributions of Mark Juruena and Paul Desiderio, the Fighting Maroons managed to taste the lead for some moments in the first quarter. But UE’s frontline of Clark Derige and Chris Javier, fed by crafty passes by their teammates, would take over in the second quarter as they punished their UP counterparts with their midrange jumpers and inside baskets. This scheme by UE went on until the end to which UP got no answers. It also did not help the Fighting Maroons’ cause that they resorted to a lot of isolation plays, most of which for Desiderio who carried the burden on offense solely.
Individual Offensive Ratings
Game Notes and Other Observations
1. Batiller changed the complexion of the game.
UE may have dictated the game all throughout but it was only around second quarter when they finally flexed their muscles. And one person they have to thank for is Edison Batiller. It may not appear in his stats – usage rate of 17.3%, 25.0% true shooting, and net rating of -15.3 in 15 minutes of play, but his aggressiveness on both sides (which UP could not contain), and his penetrations inside (which led to some open looks for his teammates) allowed UE to create a sizable margin.
2. What happened to UP’s offense?
I don’t know what happened to UP’s beautiful offensive sets in the early going of the season. It seemed that they just threw them one by one as the season progressed, encapsulated by their awful display in this game. A good chunk of their plays came from isolation plays for Desiderio and Henry Asilum who put up another good scoring performance.
3. The short leash on UP’s bigs early on.
Before, it was the point guards who the coaches were closely monitoring. But it was not the case in this game as Asilum and Diego Dario played more minutes than I thought they should, given their struggles to orchestrate the offense. Instead, they seemed to focus on the bigs. Cheick Kone started the game but he got subbed after just one possession ( I thought it was because he swatted the ball, a la Alyssa Valdez, towards no Fighting Maroon during the jump ball). Andrew Harris took his place but he was eventually replaced by Mark Juruena who put up a solid performance.
4. This was the last game of Gallarza, Juruena, and Amar.
If not for the stellar play by Agustini Amar and Mark Juruena, UE’s lead would have been bigger. Amar was brilliant all game long as he relentlessly attacked the basket, contributed a number of baskets, and solidly defended UE players of all positions. Juruena steadied the ship in the frontline early on and provided the Fighting Maroons a secondary playmaker on the court. JR Gallarza, while he had a limited appearance in this game (which has been the case all season long), made sure that his presence was felt with his hustle plays. The three may have not contributed that much numbers-wise this season, but the other facets they provide that won’t be tallied in the stat sheets will surely be missed.
5. Watch out for UE next season.
Given what had transpired in the Red Warriors camp before the start of Season 78, who would have thought they would be just one win short of a possible Final Four stint? With Chris Javier and RR de Leon as the only departures in their squad, this team is pretty much intact for Season 79. And with the experience that they have gained this season, UE will only get better.