Finally! After two long years…
The De La Salle Green Archers finally defeated bitter rivals Ateneo Blue Eagles, 82-73, in front of another massive crowd in the Mall of Asia Arena. It is the Archers first win over the Eagles in two years and the long suffering and loyal La Salle crowd was finally rewarded for their faith on their team.
It was a horrible first half for the green and white as they started the match slow and flat. It seemed like they were expecting an easier match, because the King Blue Eagle Kiefer Ravena is still out with an ankle injury. Thanks to Chris Newsome’s big 18 first half points, the blue and white led 40-28 during the first half, much to the shock of the La Salle crowd and the several analysts who predicted that La Salle will be in full control of the match. It looked like it would be another long day for the La Salle crowd but the Green Archers had other plans.
The true green Lasallians, Arnold Van Opstal and Luigi De La Paz, took over in the second half. It was a bittersweet moment as AVO and De La Paz battled their DLSZ batch mates Nico Elorde and Gwynne Capacio. AVO proved to everyone that he is a force to be reckoned with in the paint; he dominated the smaller Ateneo defenders. AVO finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 5/7 from the field and 8/10 from the line. It is his best performance so far in his college career and the La Salle crowd is hoping that he can be consistent with this kind of monster performance.
De La Paz scored all of his 10 points in the second half. He opened the third quarter with two midrange jumpers. He hit a crucial three-pointer, and another mid range basket during the latter part of the fourth quarter to seal the deal for the Archers. It was an emotional moment for the La Salle crowd after the match as the green and white gallery celebrated the long-awaited victory. Lots of hugging and even some teary-eyed fans wearing green. Finally, the suffering is over. Hopefully, this victory can give La Salle momentum for its upcoming games, all tough games against Final Four contender teams. Hopefully, La Salle would not need to wait two more years for another victory over Ateneo.
Reviewing Keys to the Game
1. Stop Ryan Buenafe.
A check mark for the Green and White as Buenafe only scored 11 points, a far cry from his 29-point explosion against FEU. He only shot a measly 1/7 from the three-point region, much to the disgust of the Blue and White crowd. The bad offensive game from Buenafe is one of the reasons why Ateneo lost the game.
2. Stop the three-point shooters of Ateneo.
Another check mark for the Archers as Ateneo only shot a measly 3/18 from rainbow territory! The Blue Eagles played small ball with no real post presence, Buenafe decided to shoot brick after brick instead of using his “Extra Rice Inc OJT” heft. Ateneo played small ball but they shot horribly from the outside, a very bad combination indeed.
3. Relax! And do not be over confident.
It was a tale of two halves for DLSU. La Salle played horribly during the first half. They seemed overconfident that the Ravena-less Eagles will play bad just because they are missing the King Blue Eagle. Fortunately, unlike the game against UST, La Salle did not wait ’til the fourth quarter to make a comeback as they started to play well during the third quarter. La Salle needs to be more consistent though in their next games to finish the first round strong.
Aside from AVO and De La Paz, the other Archers also had a good game. Almond Vosotros top scored for La Salle with 19 big points including two three-point shots. Though he struggled with his shooting, 6/17 from the field and a measly 1/7 from the free throw line to finish with “just” 13 points, King Archer Jeron Teng grabbed 10 rebounds and made a key assist to Luigi De La Paz for a crucial three-pointer to seal the deal for the Archers.
Thomas Torres also had a good all-around game, fantasy-like numbers for the point guard with a solid eight points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Coach Juno Sauler also made key adjustments, including rotation adjustments. With Ateneo playing small ball, La Salle can afford to play small ball as well as Jeron played the four spot during the crucial parts of the game. With Perkins in foul trouble and Norbert having a bad game, AVO stepped up as the main big guy for the Archers as he dominated the smaller Ateneo defenders. Good bench production for the Archers thanks to AVO and the clutch shooting of De La Paz.
Free throws! The game against UP was indeed a miracle as DLSU only shot a measly 19/34 from the line against Ateneo. It’s a good thing La Salle took 34 free throws – putting the few big guys of the Ateneo in foul trouble – but La Salle needs to make more free throws in order to make it to the Final Four. Perhaps an 80% foul shot rate is asking too much, but a 70% performance from the stripe is an acceptable demand for DLSU next time around. La Salle also started slow, the Archers needs to start better in their next games.
La Salle finally defeated Ateneo and in the process, pulled Ateneo all the way down to 0-3. A tough schedule for La Salle looms ahead as they will take on FEU next, and they still got UE, ADU and NU waiting for them to end the round. La Salle needs to take the momentum of this emotional win against Ateneo to finish the first round strong. La Salle needs to play 40 minutes of intense and focused basketball in every game. And please, please, FREE THROWS!