Nazareth School of NU’s lanky center Justine Baltazar remains the biggest thorn on the side of De La Salle-Zobel in their UAAP Season 78 juniors basketball titular showdown, but Junior Archers coach Boris Aldeguer doesn’t mind so long as his wards can contain the other Bullpups.
After hauling down a league-record of 27 rebounds on top of 15 points and 4 blocks in their dominant 78-58 victory in the series opener last February 19, Baltazar churned in his 13th double-double performance this season with 15 markers and 20 rebounds
The 6-foot-7 giant, though, failed to prevent NU from absorbing a 60-71 loss in Game 2 last Friday, denying them to complete a 16-game sweep.
Despite Baltazar’s monster performance, Aldeguer was hardly worried, knowing La Salle-Zobel’s frontline of MR Romero, Joaqui Mariano and Markus Tongco have done a commendable job on slowing him down, especially in the final quarter.
“Hindi mo talaga matatanggal ‘yun. You’re (almost) 6-foot-8 against 6-foot-2 guys, makaka-rebound ka talaga. What we need to limit is his point (production). Okay lang siya rumebound basta ‘yung points niya malimit namin,” noted Aldeguer, 41.
Clemente pumped in all but 4 of his game-high 25 points in the 2nd half and also hauled down 6 rebounds but he and Baltazar failed to get ample support from the other Bullpups, who only combined for 20 markers on a horrendous 7-of-35 clip from the field aside from accounting for 17 of NU’s 21 errors.
“‘Yung other guys nila, ma-limit namin sa rebounding,” said Aldeguer of the Bullpups’ mere 24-rebound output outside of Baltazar. “Kahit siya (Baltazar) na mag-rebound sa buong NU, walang problema sa amin. But we still need to box him out and make it hard for him to get the ball.”
Aldeguer also gave credit to Romero, who banged in a double-double of 14 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
“MR just played it right with the game plan,” said Aldeguer of his undersized power forward who seamlessly worked their pick-and-pop plays with Season MVP Aljun Melecio. “We told him to get ready to shoot (when he’s open). We knew every time Aljun will attack the screen he’s providing, both his (Romero) defender and Aljun’s defender will go after Aljun. And being the MVP that he is, Aljun knows where to locate MR on the right spots. We worked on that every single day and it worked to perfection to that today.”
Aldeguer, however, isn’t expecting Melecio and Romero to make such easy time in executing their plays come Game 3 on March 4 at the Filoil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.
“Mag aadjust ‘yan (Bullpups) sigurado. It’s a game of adjustments,” said Aldeguer. “In Game 1 they rolled over us. And in game 2, nag-adjust kami and we won. In Game 3 they’ll come out with something new. If we’re going to the motto ‘Why fix it if it’s not broken?’ maybe we just need to modify it a bit more.” — By Jerome Lagunzad