Peaking at the right time? The DLSU Green Archers are shooting for the stars

By Gio Gloria 

After five years, the DLSU Green Archers are back in the Final Four. 

The previous seasons were trying times to say the least and while La Salle was always talented on paper, translating that to success was easier said than done. A revolving door of coaches and players certainly didn’t help as the constant search for stability was in itself preventing the team from gaining any traction. 

Derrick Pumaren was hired in early 2020 for his second tour of duty as DLSU head coach, and after a two-year wait due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Green Archers ended their postseason drought under him and the return of the Pumaren press. Interestingly enough, this will be Pumaren’s first ever trip to the Final Four. 

As great as it is, making the Final Four isn’t enough for a program like that of DLSU. Championships have more often than not been their barometer for success and the fact that their archrivals, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, have been collecting titles in bunches again certainly stings. 

The Blue Eagles remain the favorites in Season 84, but like the other teams in the Final Four, La Salle still has a chance, no matter how much it turns out to be. Turning that dream into a reality, however, is another matter altogether as the Green Archers will try to get past the UP Fighting Maroons. 

Much of DLSU’s success this season can be attributed to their defense, which has been disruptive to say the least. La Salle leads the UAAP in turnovers forced (19.57 per game) and have more often than not been able to stymie teams until talent or better tactics win over. They’ve had some success against the Fighting Maroons, but they couldn’t finish the job in the first round. 

For them to get over the hump, though, they would have to address the offensive woes that have bogged down their late-game execution and prevented them from capitalizing on the stops and turnovers they produce on the other end. 

It was a common sight, especially early on to see players mishandle the ball or throw errant passes. Moreover, simple things such as proper screens weren’t really set well so shooters could not get as open as compared to other teams when they run their sets. It’s the simple things, when they pile up, that can turn into monumental mistakes that can cost games.  

Add to that their league-worst 58.74 percent free throw shooting and their 37.20 field goal percentage (third-worst in the UAAP) and converting on their shots will be the biggest key to victory against the Fighting Maroons. 

The potential is there as a few of their players have shown that they can heat up when the opportunity arises. 

Against UP, they were able to go on a run late in the fourth quarter, but Mark Nonoy missed the potential game-tying 3-pointer. 

Despite being the only team in the UAAP with two players (Justine Baltazar and Michael Phillips) averaging at least 10 rebounds per game, La Salle is only third in the league in rebounding at 45.71 per game. The energy they exert in crashing the boards usually leads to tipped balls and at times it lands in the hands of the opposing squad, which they convert into second-chance points. 

In the end, securing the ball on both ends of the floor will be crucial, especially considering how close things were in the endgame. Missed free throws, second chances, and points off turnovers could spell the difference between an early exit or a winner-take-all game. 

The DLSU Green Archers’ return to the Final Four fulfills one of the goals set by the team before UAAP Season 84 began, but an extended stay in the knockout rounds will largely boil down to execution. Facing a confident team in the UP Fighting Maroons won’t be an easy task, but they have what it takes. Putting it together is another matter altogether. 

Stats ℅ Stats By Ryan, Ryan Alba

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