The Big Dome will once again be filled with die-hard fans as the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the De La Salle Green Archers – the biggest collegiate rivals in the country – face each other for the first time this season. The former dominant team that secured five straight championships will have to prove themselves against the defending champs (and as many are predicting, the top team-to-beat not only this year but also in the years to come) in what will surely be an exciting game. Players from both squads play with more intensity than usual when they’re up against each other, probably because victory is a whole lot sweeter when it’s at the expense of your archnemesis.
Keys to the Game
Ateneo’s defense versus Adamson was excellent, but boy will they be tested against La Salle’s huge frontline! The Blue and White will have to do a lot of work guarding the paint as their height disadvantage will be more evident in this game. If they don’t, La Salle’s bigs will have the time of their life scoring those easy two’s near the rim.
Grabbing the boards
Guarding the twin towers of La Salle in Arnold Van Opstal and Norbert Torres is one thing. Boxing them out and grabbing those boards ahead of them is another. Winning the rebounding battle will be difficult for the Eagles, but they should at least try to keep it close. Chris Newsome, one of Ateneo’s strongest rebounders (and top defenders), will definitely be crucial in this game as he can match up with the Archers’ big men despite his lack of size.
This goes both defensively and offensively. First, they have to control the outside shooting of La Salle and refuse to allow Almond Vosotros and Thomas Torres to get their rhythm and be on fire. Ateneo will be exerting more effort covering the paint, but they also need to keep an eye on the guards outside. Next, they have to make their own treys. I don’t want them settling for threes in this game, but if attacking the basket will be too much of a problem, shooters Von Pessumal and Nico Elorde (and as it turned out last game, Arvin Tolentino too) will need to have a field day from the three-point area to increase the Eagles’ scoring chances.
I expect the veterans to step up in this match. All eyes will be on Kiefer Ravena again and how he carries his team. I can imagine the newbies being too pressured with their first Ateneo-La Salle experience, but hopefully they get to adjust immediately as Ravena, Newsome, Elorde, and Pessumal lead the way.