View from the Enemy: Ateneo Blue Eagles
There is no greater feeling in sports than beating your rivals – especially if that rival of yours dominated the rivalry for the last several years. We all know that feeling.
Remember when we defeated South Korea a few weeks ago to book our ticket to Spain for the FIBA World Cup 2014? We all cried and celebrated, not only because we qualified for the FIBA World Cup, but because we finally defeated our rivals South Korea, a team that gave us countless heartaches over the years in several Asian basketball tournaments.
After going through a period of mediocrity after the glory years of the Larry Bird era during the 1980’s, the long-suffering Celtics fans got their reward by ending a 22-year title drought by winning the 2008 NBA championship in dramatic fashion. What made that championship more dramatic, aside from the two-decade title drought? They won the championship against their rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, and they did it at home in Boston in front of their loyal and rabid fans.
That is the feeling of La Sallians during the La Salle-Ateneo games in the last several years. Ateneo just won five straight championships and are gunning for a six-peat. La Salle, on the other hand, have been inconsistent the past few years, either missing the Final Four or just struggling to make it to the Final Four. Since 2008, Ateneo has defeated La Salle 12 out of the last 14 rivalry games. La Salle won during the first round of 2010, and during the first round of this year’s UAAP tournament. We La Sallians are hoping that we don’t need to wait for another two or three more years before another victory over Ateneo.
La Salle defeated Ateneo during the first round, 82-73. Almond Vosotros top scored for the Green Archers with 19 points while Arnold Van Opstal dominated the smaller Ateneo defenders with 18 points. With Kiefer Ravena out due to an ankle injury, Chris Newsome top scored for the Blue Eagles with 27 big points. It was a tale of two halves as the Blue and White led during halftime, 40-28. But AVO and Luigi De La Paz took over in the second half as the Archers nailed a dramatic victory. That match seems ages ago though.
After a poor 0-3 start, the Eagles have won six out of their last seven games, and they are now on a five-game winning streak. After an inconsistent first round, La Salle is now on a three-game winning streak.
Both teams are peaking at the right time. Though there is a chance that both teams can make it to the Final Four, the race is just too tight, and many analysts and arm chair experts believes that only one of them can make it to the Final Four. So, this game is not only about the cliché “throw the stats and standings away when it is La Salle versus Ateneo game,” but frankly, this game is about the standings as well and the Final Four life of the two schools hangs in the balance.
Keys to the Game
Dominate the paint!
During their first round meeting, Arnold Van Awesome had a breakout game. He scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds as he dominated the smaller Ateneo defenders, putting the Ateneo big guys in foul trouble as well.
Jason Perkins and Norbert Torres struggled during that game, and they would sure love to have a big game against the Blue Eagles this time around. During La Salle’s last game against UP, Jason Perkins scored 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while The Bear Norbert Torres scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
After a good first round, AVO has been struggling a bit during the last two games, he failed to score in double figures against FEU and UP and he has been struggling from the line lately as well. What better way to bounce back by having a huge game against Ateneo, right?
I don’t expect all three of them to have a double-double performance, but perhaps two of them might. With JP Erram struggling with injuries and with Frank Golla’s inconsistent play, expect the three big guys of La Salle to dominate this game. I expect around a combined 40 points and 26 rebounds from AVO, The Bear and Perkins, and a couple of blocks as well.
Limit the Phenom
After struggling during the first round because of an ankle injury, the King Eagle, the Blue Mamba Kiefer Ravena has been playing well lately. He is averaging 16.6 PPG during the second round. He missed the first La Salle-Ateneo game of the year because of his ankle injury and he is raring to play well against La Salle in this second round.
Ravena scored 31 points during Ateneo’s victory against La Salle in the pre-season. He was unstoppable during that game, driving at will and knocking down jumper after jumper. Of course, that is just a pre-season game, so Ravena would love to prove that he could carry ADMU to a victory over DLSU when it matters the most.
Despite the one-game suspension of Thomas Torres, La Salle has a lot of guards that they could throw to defend against Ravena. Pesky defenders such as Almond Vosotros, Oda Tampus and even rookies Kib Montalbo (who will get a lot of playing time thanks to the suspension of Torres), and Robert Bollick (who tried, and failed, to defend Ravena during the pre-season) will alternate in defending Ravena.
Another option is having a bigger guard in defending Ravena, like Jeron Teng. Jeron is big and strong and he showed flashes of brilliance on defense during this season. Jeron has been struggling with his shooting this season, but with his size and speed, he can contribute in other ways.
The free throw curse is back! After improving from the line during the latter part of the first round, La Salle’s free throw waterloo is back. La Salle struggled from the line the last two games, making just a combined 40/73 from the line against FEU and UP. During the last few games of the first round, I stopped making “free throws” as my “generic La Salle Key to the Game” because I thought that the curse is over. How wrong I was! I am hoping I would not sound like a broken record during the last few games of the season, hopefully La Salle can fix this problem.
Final Thoughts and Predictions
Either team can sweep the second round and win it all. But either team can also lose all their remaining games and miss the Final Four completely. Such is the parity of the UAAP this season.
There is a very good chance that this is the last La Salle- Ateneo game of the year. It is unlikely that they will face in the Final Four or in the Finals, not to mention there is a good chance that only one of them can make it to the Final Four and even a slim chance that neither team would make the Final Four at all!
With that said, expect both teams and both crowds to go all out. With both teams battling for playoff position and even a possible twice to beat advantage, emotions will go higher than usual, and the team that can control their emotions and execute their game plans will win this game.
As a matter of fact, I don’t expect any more blowout games in the remaining games of La Salle and Ateneo, all of their remaining games are against Final Four contenders. If La Salle can dominate the post and grab those rebounds, La Salle can pull this one off.
I expect La Salle to win this one in a close game.