With first-year coach Aldin Ayo serving a one-game ban and star wingman Jeron Teng sidelined by bone spurs on his left heel, all eyes will be on Ayo’s top deputy, Louie Gonzales, as the Green Archers eye a first-round sweep against arch-rivals, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, on Sunday in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After doing a commendable job in helping La Salle overcome the ejection of Ayo late in the first half and a tough University of the East 84-78 last Wednesday, Gonzales will be in for a more challenging job in the Green Archers’ 4 p.m. showdown with the dangerous Blue Eagles, who are running at second spot with a 4-2 mark.
The 6-foot-2 Teng, arguably La Salle’s top local who’s good for 16.3 points per game, on Friday night underwent a Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy to remove bone spurs on his left heel and is expected to take at least a one-week rest.
Without Ayo and Teng, the Green Archers appear vulnerable than ever for a Blue Eagles side riding high on a two-game winning streak.
Gonzales, however, is unfazed, confident the Green Archers still have plenty of firepower left.
“Itong team na ito built with each and everyone. Ang lakas namin ‘yung lakas ng bawat isa,” he stressed.
The effective system instilled by Ayo to the Green Archers will remain the team’s biggest edge, added Gonzales.
“Alam naman ng lahat. Kasi sa system namin, every time na naliligaw kami, ang iisipin lang lagi ng players namin—and we brief them sa ganoong paraan—ang iisipin niyo lang lagi ay ‘yung system. Iisipin niyo lagi ‘yung alam ng marami,” he said.
Without Teng, the Green Archers remain a formidable force to be reckoned with behind the presence of dominant Cameroon big man Ben Mbala, veterans Abu Tratter, Kib Montalbo, Thomas Torres, Andrei Caracut and Prince Rivero.
Gonzales, however, continues to remind to their wards what Ayo has been preaching from the start.
“Every time na nanalo kami, mas magiging mahirap, and walang magiging madali sa journey,” he stressed. – By Jerome Lagunzad