By Neal Tieng
The ultimate nightmare for every La Sallian on grades distribution day. It not only signifies course failure, but the grade exudes lack of confidence. ONE POINT ZERO.
And this has been our grade for the DLSU Green Archers circa 2019 after four games with the team winning only winning one and dropping three games.
With our Archers in a state of confusion and at the edge of implosion, what seems to be wrong?
THAT HORRIFIC FEU GAME
The game was a tale of five minutes. Right off the opening buzzer, La Salle seemed to be a different team that finally embraced team basketball. Passing the ball with electric efficiency, Jaime Malonzo, Andrei Caracut and Aljun Melecio were feasting off the slow-closing FEU defense by quick ball rotation and patiently finding the open man to get the bucket.
At the 6-minute mark of the first quarter, La Salle raced ahead 14-7.
But that lead will soon be gone. FEU found the biggest loophole of the La Salle defense and offense and endlessly pounced on it – the missing import.
Going import-commando this season, La Salle has been missing what Ben Mbala gave in our championship year and Santi Santillan has been giving last year, rim protection. With La Salle’s relatively leaner and less agile frontcourt, FEU’s Pat Tchuete became a sky-hooking and rhythm shooting big man with little challenge from the La Salle bigs.
A big could also be given a low-post option that will force to sag and create space for our lethal shooters.
The pain of this missing piece was felt most when La Salle went scoreless the rest of the first quarter and shot 4 of 24 for the rest of the first half and allowing FEU to build leads as big as 16. This huge cushion would eventually be the space that allowed FEU to turn back every La Salle rally.
Although Melecio and Malonzo again were able to cut the lead down to 5 in the 3rd quarter at 44-39 with 5:11 left via lay-up by Melecio off a feed from Captain Caracut, the Tamaraws’ focus on capitalizing on that hole in the middle helped them weather the storm.
High pick and rolls and dribble drive in the middle became FEU’s go-to option and Tamaraws went on to frustrate La Salle 66-55 in that sad September 18 afternoon at the MOA Arena.
THE MISSING IMPORT
Balti Baltazar is a stellar power forward, but certainly not a good centerpiece in this lineup. Balti can hit mid-range Js and occasionally drain that triple. But the former UAAP juniors MVP can never solely defend the paint like an Mbala.
The second line defense of Brandon Bates and James Laput is no match for the towering imports of the modern UAAP. Ange Kouame takes 3s and drives to the hole, Bright Akhuetie bullies his way inside the paint and Soulemane Chabi-Yo shows his old school jumpshot and drive combo.
It would be long before we see another bully-ball session from these imports or the locals finding the Archers’ interior defense as open and wide as EDSA on holy week. All they have to do, is beat their man off the dribble and drive for an easy two.
To win it, FEU need not resort to Wendell Comboy’s 3-point show as they only attempted 25 the entire game. The Tamaraws just wore down La Salle by attacking inside for an instant 46.94% from the two point region.
THE ONE BASKET STRETCHES
Call it with all names, bucket-less stretches, one basket quarters, long scoring drought. We are reliving the Dindo Pumaren era when we would go for long stretches, clanking every shot attempt.
The common line in the scoring droughts that killed us was when the first five takes a breather. When either Malonzo or Melecio treks to the bench, the whole offensive flow of the Green Archers turns into a charade of failed desperate attempt from beyond the 3-point line.
And when your point guard takes more dribbles than prescribed, that triggers the entire dreaded scoring drought.
THE POTENT LINE-UP WITH NO OFFENSIVE FLOW
Make no wrong conclusions, the Green Archers’ line-up is stacked. The guard rotation is still the best in the country as Coach Jermaine Byrd boldly claimed with Caracut, Melecio, Meeker, Malonzo and Serrano. And with Kurt Lojera, Josh Bartlett, Bates, Joaqui Manuel and Laput acting as supporting cast for Baltazar, these young kids, when playing as a group, can be lethal.
But without a fluid offensive pattern that they can fall back on, the Green Archers will always be prone to scoring droughts and sadly, a lot of L’s in the coming playdates.
Hopefully the Archers will find their range just in time for the next battle against the Adamson Falcons, a team with a tall import and a whole bunch of offensive weapons.
All is not lost. Not yet at least. The young squad can still pull it off.
As every professor would tell you, we just have to keep on grinding to get that passing grade.
ANIMO LA SALLE!