MANILA, Philippines–It’s bad enough that the La Salle Green Archers will wake up from a bad dream with their bodies achingly sore and their pride in shreds.
The knowledge that they wrought the nightmare unto themselves makes it even worse.
Without taking anything away from the scorching performance of fierce rival Ateneo, the Archers acknowledged late Sunday that they hardly put up any challenge against the defending champion Blue Eagles in a 74-57 rout that, really, wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
“We got carried away. We thought we could win the game through offense,” said third-year forward Joshua Webb at the Araneta Coliseum after the match.
For a while, it looked like they could, taking a 9-4 lead on a mini 6-0 run in the 5:27 mark of the first quarter. Ironically, it was that guns-a-blazing head start basically caused La Salle’s demise.
“We forgot our defensive rules. We didn’t play defense. The players immediately lost their focus,” rued coach Dindo Pumaren, who replaced his brother Franz in mentoring the Archers this year.
The game took a heart-wrenching turn for La Salle as their shots started rattling out, basket after basket, and defense walked out of the Big Dome after the first dead-ball situation.
The Eagles raced to a 25-2 run to seize an 18-point lead in the second quarter, and the squad yearning for sweet revenge after a first-round defeat never looked back.
Jovet Mendoza was the lone bright spot in Archer’s sullen performance as he pounded it hard down low, drawing the calls and providing them with a much-needed offense spark.
But the weight of the task was too heavy for Mendoza to carry alone.
“It was heavy. This is the time when we needed the team to step up, but none of us responded,” Mendoza, who churned in 20 points, said in Filipino.
“We really lacked the aggressiveness and effort needed to win.”
The Archers obviously didn’t get much from those they expected to step up.
Sophomore Samuel Marata, the hero responsible for La Salle’s first round 66-63 victory over Ateneo, was completely sour from the field all-game long as he only finished with four points—one field goal, zero-of-three from beyond the arc.
The usually-energetic Webb, who paced La Salle with 12 points the last time these two teams met, was a even greater disappointment as he contributed two measly points in the loss.
No one else in the team wound in up double figures, with Maui Villanueva next in line to Mendoza with seven points and with five green shirts scoreless.
It was a stark contrast from the Archers’ showing last month, where they plagued the Eagles with balanced scoring and scrappy defense especially in the last three minutes of that game where they turned the tables and went away with a come-from-behind win.
In this one, La Salle spent the entire payoff period trying to bring down a whopping 26-point deficit to a fairly decent level.
There are statistics to throw, basketball jargon to mash up to come up with a coherent and definitive reason for the loss. But often, it’s plain and simple language that sums things up.
“We played like crap,” Webb said.
“It was like a nightmare,” Pumaren said.
If anything, the vocal Webb managed to pick up an important lesson that the Archers will need in their Season 73 bid.
“It’s a realization for our team that we can’t relax, we have to stick with the system,” said Webb.