The final game of De La Salle pits them against the the school they conquered in the finals last season, the University of Santo Tomas, the erstwhile stomping grounds of Jeron Teng‘s older brother, Jeric.
UST has been on a roller coaster ride while La Salle has regained its bearings after dropping the first two games. I can’t say UST is having a great season. They barely escaped Adamson (where they would be beaten had Don Trollano been present, somehow), stared down a late lead by UP before surging ahead, blown out of the gates by NU in the opening game. And of course got their hearts crushed by Kiefer Ravena.
DLSU on the other hand, slowly got their act together, winning ugly against NU and UE, waylaying AdU and UP, all with their best player suffering through three god-awful games. I cannot take the UP game of Jeron and Almond Vosotros seriously though. It was UP. You are bound to have a good game. But I am glad to see RoboSon plow through the paint and not settle for jump shots.
What will bring De La Salle their fifth win and a shot at second place? Let’s see.
PUSHING ABDUL OUT
Against Ateneo, Karim Abdul had success inside against Kris Porter and Giboy Babilonia. Not exactly starter material nor someone you would want to cover elite big men. Norbert Torres, Arnold Van Opstal, and Jason Perkins have their work cut out for them but they shouldn’t have a problem. Ateneo showed that to slow Abdul down, you have to force him outside his comfort zone of 18-20 feet from the rim.
The UST big man was murderous in the first canto before he was absurdly forced by a defensive scheme to end up with the ball at the three-point arc. Of course, Abdul cannot hoist it from there so that stymied his, and UST’s as well, offense. The trap worked perfectly fine to keep the ball off Sheak Sheriff’s hands most of the time and had Abdul playing point-center. Take note Archers.
In their last game as well, Abdul was cancelled out by heavy pressure and denial by Arvin Tolentino (!) although of course he was still able to slip on misread fronts by the rookie. But the ball rarely funneled through him to get the offense going. Does Karim know he can’t attack the zone? If he doesn’t, then capitalize on it.
HEAVY PRESSURE ON FERRER OR LET HIM CHUCK?
Kevin Ferrer practically has been invisible with the exception of the FEU game. Against Ateneo, it was way worse. And there was nothing special with how Ateneo defended the former Juniors MVP. He doesn’t know when to take advantage of a little man against him or a taller one as of the moment. It is quite unnerving since Pido Jarencio made it a point to take advantage of his gifts.
The kid has been contenting himself with outside shots that have been helping Torre de Santo Tomas add a floor or two. So, it would be safe if there is considerable pressure to keep the lanky forward out of the lane and have him lay brick after brick. That should work.
WHO GETS MARIANO?
Aljon Mariano played like Aljon Mariano against Ateneo. The match-up nightmare that killed big forwards and took the names of the smaller forwards seems to have his mojo back after being demoted to the bench. Who takes him though? Would you have Perkins on him or Teng?
Perkins is big enough to cover him but laterally, Aljon has an advantage over him. He can beat Perkins off the dribble. Whereas for Teng, would it be wise to make him work on defense and watch him settle for his butt-ugly jump shots on the other end? I don’t think DLSU has the best match for him unlike Chris Newsome, with whom he played even. Yutien Andrada would’ve been a good bet had he not been coming from ACL injury. Alas, this is a problem area for DLSU.
It will be close. But I still see De La Salle eking out an ugly win.