Minutes into the game, De La Salle looked like they have prepared some serious ass-whooping for the Hail Mary Squad from Katipunan. Jason Perkins was mangling anybody in the paint and Jeron Teng was dropping assists like hot pancakes. The scoreboard read 13-4.
It was bad. So bad. Ticky-tacky fouls were being called left and right for the Blue Eagles one after the other. De La Salle was steamrolling. And then Von Pessumal happened in the second quarter. The King Eagle, Kiefer Ravena, went berserk in the last canto as he trolled the zone defense put up by Juno Sauler’s squad. And just like that, 97-86 for the sons of Loyola.
I imagined that this would be a dogfight. After all the bad calls and, some of them bad flops on charges, there was just nothing they could do in the face of the Blue and White juggernaut anchored on their superstar. The Archers did go on to do that Hack-A-Fonso to catch up, but ultimately failed. However, I did lay out some questions, or keys to the game for the Green Archers, grudgingly. So let’s take a look how they fared, and failed, at it.
Keeping Kiefer at Bay, who’ll stop him?
Just like how I said it, Kiefer Ravena would be blanketed not by just only one defender all game. Sauler rotated his boys, trying to see who can stop the Blue Beast of Katipunan. He had Vosotros, Thomas Torres, Kib Montalbo (who still hasn’t delivered that hype, sorry), and even Jeron Teng and Jason Perkins shadow Ravena. Even rookie Julian Sargent and Babes Bolick tried their hands on the King Eagle. In the end, Ravena still torched them with 29 points, 14 coming in the back-breaking barrage from downtown in the fourth, five rebounds, two dimes and two steals. No one could stop Ravena, and Gang Green just cringed, uttering a prayer of hope that the bombs don’t land. Again, prayer did not work. They must have felt mighty confident that they shut Ravena’s driving lanes in the first half, making him a jump shooter (something he’s not totally uncomfortable with). That stymied his efficacy in creating opportunities for his teammates. But in the second half, it was different. He took what the defense gave him, not forcing his drives, and giving off passes for hockey assists. Defensively, La Salle did not make Ravena work at all. Vosotros chucked brick after brick and built a new condo beside their Taft campus. Same with Teng. Ravena was able to conserve his energy for that final run to put the game away.
Pounding the rock
This aspect of the game, La Salle did well. As expected. They had a huge 46-28 advantage in points in the paint. Jason Perkins dove again and again to pump in 25 points. He did throw in two triples but most of his points came from close to the basket, shooting 8-for-11 inside the arc. Arnold Van Opstal and Norbert capitalized as well on Ateneo’s thin frontline that only had former La Salle big Fonso Gotladera and top recruit Arvin Tolentino as their viable threats. The twin towers did their job, but Gotladera just proved to be a handful as well, and Tolentino too, who kept pulling one big outside with his darn-good ability to snipe.
Passing, passing, and more passing
It was a surprise actually. A very big one. La Salle handed out 16 assists with Teng and Perkins handing out four assists each. Norbert Torres wasn’t so bad in his Joakim Noah impersonation as he hit cutters, namely Perkins and AVO, for nice passes in the post. Overall, they moved that ball so well. They however threw it away 13 times too. That makes for a bad assist to turnover ratio in my books. Same goes for Ateneo who tallied 17 assists to 14 turnovers.
Nobody expected Von Pessumal to enter the fray barrels hot and firing away rapidly. His jump shot is a damn beautiful art form. He pumped in 21 markers, nine of which were important ones to pull the Blue Eagle offense out of the rut. But it was not all about his impeccable timing when he did put points in. He did his own job on the boards, collaring seven, five of which were scrappy offensive rebounds against the gigantic Taft frontline. The Green Archers also left Arvin Tolentino open a couple of times and the blue chip recruit made them pay with two triples. Also, they failed to locate him on box outs which led to Tolentino collecting loose balls rather actively, compared to his big fat egg on rebounds against Adamson. He finished with 14 and 10 and the Archers can only blame themselves for leaving the ultra-talented rookie space to work his magic.
DLSU only passed one out of three criteria. While it is too early to push the panic button, it is kind of alarming that the team does not have anyone to stop a supreme scorer. It’s true that when they need points, they can just dump it to Perkins, who has been their best player so far. Jeron Teng needs to let the game come to him, stop chucking jumpshots and use his size and speed inside to bully people. The way it is, I’ll put up a zone defense against this team and sag off when Teng and Vosotros are behind the arc. Let Almond chuck his way through, same with Jeron. Deny the entry passes and pack that paint. DLSU has their work cut out for them. Else, my repeat prediction would be thrown out of the window.