De La Salle-Zobel finally exposed a chink in Nazareth School of NU’s armor, but Juniors Archers coach Boris Aldeguer refused to be swayed, convinced the Bullpups are out to roar back in their UAAP Season 78 juniors basketball finals showdown.
After falling prey in their previous 3 meetings, the Junior Archers solved the Bullpups’ perplexing puzzle in Game 2 last Friday behind a sustained defensive pressure and a timely offensive explosion in the 2nd half for an all-important 71-60 victory at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Aside from denying thrice-to-beat NU a historic 16-game sweep, La Salle-Zobel also gained a fitting morale-boosting victory while forcing a Game 3 on March 4 in the same venue.
“We just made our non-believers, our own believers. Everybody wrote us off after Game 1. We’re just out to prove that we’re a worthy title challenger,” said Aldegeur, 41. “We’re not in the finals for nothing. We’re here because we’re a great team. And if we play as a team, no matter the disadvantages are, the result will always be good.”
And the post-game stats sheet served as a concrete proof.
Working behind an alternating 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone defense, the Junior Archers made life miserable for the Bullpups all game long, holding to their season lows in points (60), field goals (19-of-62) and blocks (2).
Aldeguer, who has already steered Zobel to a pair of UAAP juniors titles, was quick to give credit to his wards’ collective desire on the defensive end.
“That was the only way (for us to win) because there’s no way we can match up with their height in all positions. We just had to put some different looks in our defense and hope it could turned out (in our favor),” he said.
“I came up with it (defensive plan) and I’m so used to that because every year, we’re having a disadvantage in terms of height,” added Aldeguer.
“That’s what I like with high school basketball because you really have to think a way when you cannot matchup with the materials you have with the other teams. Kailangan pag-aralan talaga. I just had to look back years back on what we were doing against the likes of (former FEU star Terrence) Romeo. We just have to modify it.”
Although NU’s prized duo, forward John Lloyd Clemente and towering center Justine Baltazar, did their damage anew with a combined 40-point production on 12-of-27 shooting from the field on top of 26 rebounds, 2 assists and a block, the rest of their Bullpups teammates failed to give them enough lift.
Baltazar single-handedly brought the Bullpups back to life from a 12-point deficit in the 3rd canto and even pulled them within 56-57 early in the fourth, only to run out of steam while Junior Archers guards Marco Sario and Miguel Fortuna ignited a 10-2 counterattack for a 67-58 lead with a little over two minutes left.
“We just went with our pace. If we can run, we will run. NU is also a fast-paced team because of their height advantage. When they secure the rebound, they can push the leather quickly. So we couldn’t play that way, the pressing type,” shared Aldeguer.
While he admitted the 1-week break gave them ample time to prepare the Junior Archers better, Aldeguer sounded wary about the Bullpups, whom he expect to come out more determined and more focused as they try to clinch their 3rd title in the last 4 years.
“I know next game, they are gonna prepare for that (defensive schemes),” said Aldeguer. “NU is a tough team and they are really hard to match up, player to player. I know they will bounce back strong definitely. Like I said, we just want to prove we’re a worthy opponent against NU and we’re here because we deserve to be in the finals.” — By Jerome Lagunzad