Defence and distribution debone Lady Eagles

Published on August 4th, 2014 | by Absolut Verde

IMG_7318ii

La Salle 48
Ateneo 39

Blue Eagle Gym – This is without doubt Coach Tyrone Bautista’s most reserved Lady Archers squad. In the dugout, even after systematically field-dressing their rivals, there was no more than a low murmuring as they warmed down. It has been that way on each of their five victories so far. This is a group with six graduating seniors, each one as eager to avoid the spotlight as the other. They prefer to hunt in packs, patiently, quietly, watching for tendencies. Then they leave sharp things inside your soft parts.

Today they played the kind of game that allowed a Danica Jose to score 17 points and grab 22 rebounds against them, yet pose no real threat to the 20-point lead they had built midway through the third. The kind of game in which they took seven minutes to get on the scoreboard, allowed a new-look Ateneo to run off with a 7-0 lead, before dumping 15 points on them in three rapacious minutes.

La Salle-Ateneo is always a tricky fixture regardless of sport or standings; for the Lady Archers, neither did it help that they also had to tweak their guard rotation this week as Camille Claro continues to recover from that concussion she sustained during the UE game. Miller Ong and Chay Vergara started brightly, but missed drop passes to and by the bigs resulted in the turnovers that gave Ateneo early hope. It took a timeout and a defensive adjustment at the top of the key to get their running game going. Nicky Garcia provided the buena mano, while Martina Lumba and Khate Castillo needed no time to warm up, hitting a long jumper and a trey respectively within seconds of their introduction. And then the hunt was on.

The game got away from Ateneo in the second quarter as the Lady Archers set their traps at half-court. Cass Santos kept La Salle’s momentum going by stealing off the first play and leading the break, while continuous ball pressure afterwards kept Ateneo’s shooters Bo-ot and Aseron in awkward positions that led to traveling violations and interceptions. Jose found space down low on two occasions but La Salle’s return fire was unremitting. By the end of the first half, ten Lady Archers had scored. Jose was well on her way to top scoring, but by then the deficit was 12.

“Here come the hard 20 minutes,” Bautista warned at the break. It was a question of not biting unnecessarily on defence, of moving instinctively knowing a teammate would help. As the Lady Archers stayed active denying Ateneo’s bigs on the block, so did their ball movement sharpen. Passes found Piatos, Garcia and Castillo open and the carpet-bombing continued, supported by Santos and Inna Corcuera’s inside incursions. Jolina Go would score all seven of her points in Ateneo’s third quarter resistance, but for most of that time their defence was short on solutions and half a step slower.

The Lady Eagles gave it a final go in the last ten minutes with quick conversions by Jose and a full-court press that, along with La Salle’s suddenly sloppy passing and sloppier free throw shooting, produced a messy denouement to this first-round derby. Still, the win was decisive and the appetite for smart play seems stronger now. Their reward: two more games this week, against the toughest teams in the tournament. And for the Zobel girls on the team today, a knowing wink.

Player of the game: Miller Ong, for her team’s only double-digit stat of the game: rebounds, 12 in total, seven of them offensive. For a point guard who in her words, “stands 4’12””. And who keeps one no-look pass in her pocket for use every fourth quarter.

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