David vs David: De La Salle Zobel vs Ateneo Step-ladder Match
Migs Bustos on Feb 11, 2016 04:32 PM
The Junior Archers and Blue Eaglets have a storied rivalry just like their senior counterparts.
De La Salle Zobel vs Ateneo High School: a developed rivalry that both squads inherited from their senior counterparts, every game matters. Whether it’s a pre-season game, a UAAP regular season game, and most importantly another post-season meeting, it matters way much more.
The reason why I named this article “David vs David” is because in essence, they are both underdogs. And the true “Goliath” is the National University Bullpups who finished with an excellent record of 14-0 to conclude the regular season and had a winning margin of 19.2 ppg (#1 in the league) against all opponents throughout Season 78. Its’ been a tough task for both Zobel and Ateneo to edge them out this year as the Blue Eaglets and Junior Archers fell by 12 and 23 points, respectively in their second round meetings.
The two “Davids” have their unique advantages and disadvantages against one another: (Obviously) DLSZ only has to win once to get into the finals; Ateneo has been in the championship seven times in the last 10 years, while DLSZ only made two trips; DLSZ will expect the leadership of Aljun Melecio, the league’s MVP, while Ateneo’s experienced starters and bench mob can lead them all the way.
Through all the possible analyses how to beat one another, I have narrowed it down to three factors for each team to win this mini-series.
How the Junior Archers can lock in their target:
- Who’s To Win This Game?
That question should only have one option if you’re the Junior Archers. The most dangerous that can happen if a team has a twice-to-beat advantage is not when the whole squad is playing relaxed, it is when they are outplayed. No excuses in getting outhustled or outrebounded, they have to set the tone. It is important for the Junior Archers to treat this as a knockout game, as if they are the ones climbing the ladder. No tomorrows. That sense of urgency has to be evident, that urgency to play for the championship.
- Frontcourt MUST step up
In the two wins by Zobel against Ateneo this season, the former managed to outrebound the latter. The Junior Archers outrebounded the Blue Eaglets a combined 96-81 and credit that to the effort by the intangible front liners such as Martin Romero, Joaqui Mariano and Brent Paraiso. However, they were outscored inside the paint by the Blue Eaglets. How much? Let’s say that 64% of the Blue Eaglets’ points in both games came from inside (92/144). It is clear that the frontcourt has to step up 2-3 notches higher with regards to rebounding and become legitimate threats who can score more in the paint. I think that if they can contribute at least three to four rebounds each, they’ll have a great chance of dominating the rebounding department again. Also, with the playmaking abilities of Melecio, Sario and Fortuna, the bigs must be alert for those quick entry and drop passes and be ready to convert them inside.
Just a little trivia, DLSZ is 8-0 this season when they lead their games in rebounding, 7-0 when they lead their games dominating inside the painted area.
Almost 93 percent or 13 out of the 14 of the Junior Archers’ games this season, Aljun Melecio led the way in scoring. Heck, he scored 42 against the Blue Eaglets in their first round meeting and 41 against FEU last January 9. But they cannot just simply rely on him. Whoever it is from their pool, anybody can step up and take the clutch-load. If Melecio is denied during clutch minutes, someone has to have the guts to take big shots with clear confidence. I believe we can expect this game to be a close one, a see-saw battle at that up until the last second. Yes, Melecio may still lead this game in terms of points. But it’s not how much you score, it’s when that it matters. The question is who.
How high can the Blue Eaglets fly:
- Limit Aljun
This is stating the obvious, but I am sure there is a concrete plan for this. This is accurate: Melecio carries 30 percent of Zobel’s scoring load. So if Ateneo limits his production, even if only by 20 percent not only in scoring, but everything else he can do inside the court. These are big numbers that they can scrape off and make a big difference in the game.The key is to make him a little factor as much as possible. It is very crucial for his multiple defenders to limit him at all costs whether it’s making a set play, pulling up from all angles or running/finishing down on the fast breaks. I believe if the Blue Eaglets are able to pull this off, they have a great chance of expecting a rubber match.
- Balanced Attack
Last year’s Finals MVP Jolo Mendoza, Shaun Ildefonso, Bryan Andrade, Gian Mamuyac and SJ Belangel can score double digits in any given game though it will be a challenge for them to score double digits all at the same time. They can contribute at least 9 to 11 points apiece, truly can be an unstoppable force and be very, very tough to match up with. The agility, quickness and playmaking abilities of Mendoza and Mamuyac can bring out a big fire in their offense. At the same time, through Belangel’s and Ildefonso’s will power to dominate the paint, the bigs of Zobel may have a hard time stopping them. To add to this, Ateneo is #1 in bench points, capable of drawing out 31.9 points per game from their reserves. It is important for them to work as a unit, everybody should step up given their chances and make the most of their minutes.
- One Big Fight
For the 18-time Juniors Champions Blue Eaglets to live another day, they sure has to give the Junior Archers one heck of a big fight. Leave everything on the court: force stops, make them commit as much turnovers as possible, higher energy, mental toughness…the list goes on. The Blue Eaglets can keep this a running game, get their offense from their defense and keep on pushing the tempo every possession. This season, their stats proved it. In their 10 regular season wins, they are 9 and 1 when they outscore their opponents in the paint, when they convert points from opponents turnovers, also when their bench outplays the other. If they believe enough that they can force a rubber match, they are capable of doing so.
Remember, the Blue Eaglets were in this same disadvantage back in 2009 where they had to win two games in the Final 4. They ousted Kevin Ferrer and the Tiger Cubs to get to the finals. Then League and Finals MVP Kiefer Ravena led his team to a three-game thriller to win it all.
You might wonder, against who?
De La Salle Zobel.
Big credits and special thanks for all statistical data.:
- Pong Ducanes of Imperium Technology
- Ateneo Blue Eaglets Team Manager Marco Benitez
- De La Salle Zobel Team Manager Edwin Evangelista