The Lastimosa Trap

By: Toby Pavon

It’s no secret, Jerom Lastimosa is THE GUY for the Adamson Soaring Falcons. He is a thorn on the side of every opponent Adamson faces, he is a walking bucket, he is their unanimous, unquestioned, undisputed, reigning, defending, go-to guy. His presence has been a focal point for Adamson’s offense because of his knack for getting buckets and drawing the attention of opposing defenses.

As the focal point of Adamson’s offense, Jerom is also the focal point of every opposing defense Adamson will ever play against. Game after game, you can count on opposing defenses sending traps, quick double teams, box-and-one schemes against Jerom, forcing him to give up the ball, and quite frankly, it’s tiring.

The thing is, it makes sense. When the opposing team has a player that can hit step-back threes, turn around mid-rangers and weave his way to layups with relative ease, the first order of business will always to be to get the ball out of his hands. It’s straight-forward, it’s obvious and it’s annoying.

What’s even more annoying is how effective this strategy has been against Adamson. In their season opener against UST, Nic Cabanero dumped 33 points on the Falcons while executing a defensive plan that forced the Falcons offense to stall. How did they do this? Coach Bal David had UST’s defense trap Lastimosa any time he touched the ball. This resulted in 3 turnovers, and a horrendous 4/11 shooting from the field for Jerom.

UST’s defenders give Jerom their full attention the moment he uses the screen

In their most recent game against NU, it was more of the same. NU was trapping Jerom at every opportunity which forced him to 8 turnovers and yet another horrendous 4/11 shooting from the field. Fortunately for Jerom, in order to shoot horrendously in the UAAP, you have to actually play in the UAAP, right?

NU’s defenders double Jerom just as he crosses the half court line, the again when he gets the ball back. This could have been a pass to Magbuhos who popped to the arc, but the defense took away that pass.
NU’s defenders pick him up and double him again even as Jerom receives the ball again off the pass. NU aggressively forces Jerom out of position while cutting off the pass to Lenda rolling into the paint.

The one game that an opponent resisted the urge to constantly trap Jerom, he shot 9/19 from the field for 25 points. Unfortunately, when they eventually did start to trap him in overtime, he couldn’t even get a single shot attempt up.

But trapping Jerom and forcing him to give up the ball as a means of beating Adamson is usually easier said than done. In their two victories, Jerom was not the highest scorer for the Falcons. Against UE, it was Joem Sabandal who put up a scoring clinic for 16 points, while against FEU it was Vince Magbuhos who poured in bucket after bucket from beyond the arc, making 7/8 three pointers for a team high 23 points.

Choosing not to trap Jerom means he has room to operate. Without the pressure, Jerom makes a crisp pass to Magbuhos waiting in the wing.

Watching teams trap Jerom over and over again is extremely annoying, and only the Soaring Falcons can make it stop. How? By making it not work. And how do they do that? By doing what they did in their wins, having players not named Jerom Lastimosa hit their shots.

It became painfully clear why teams choose to trap him. As a team, the Soaring Falcons shot an atrocious 2/24 from the three point line. This was despite all the opportunities generated by Jerom’s gravity. Both a combination of bad luck, and simply not having players on the floor whose sole purpose is to knock down threes, the Soaring Falcons, on their worst games, are unable to make teams pay for trapping Jerom so often.

Adamson’s offense is good enough that it can generate open shots like this. Notice how both defenders are out of position to recover as Jed Colonia receives the pass. Unfortunately Jed is not known for his ability to make three pointers and opted to drive in this play.

By no means is the Soaring Falcons offense bad. Often, they are lauded for having some of the best ball movement in the league. Their lineup is made up of players who would be considered good at scoring, some of whom can shoot the three ball, but where they suffer is from a lack of who would be considered three-point shooters. Joshua Yerro, Joem Sabandal, Didat Hanapi, Vince Magbuhos are all capable shooters who can knock down the three ball, but they aren’t able to do it with the necessary consistency to keep defenders worried about them catching the emergency pass from Jerom.

Jerom attracts the defense and finds the open man who swings it to the open man in the corner which is normally the sign of good offense, but Aaron Flowers who is open in the corner is not known for being able to make three pointers, so he is forced to put the ball on the floor and drive instead.

In many instances, the better shot for them is a drive to the paint for a layup or a mid range shot, a shot that allows defenders to recover or to help on the closeout, negating the advantage Jerom gives them. And when teams realize that they have time to recover, the drives become more and more contested, and points become harder and harder to come by.

Several good looks don’t go down which is the trend for Adamson’s offense. The ball movement has been good but they aren’t able to convert the chances.

Basketball is a game of going with what works. Opposing teams have found out that trapping Jerom works. They will continue trapping him because it works. And they will not stop trapping him until it doesn’t work. So if Adamson wants to have any chance of having a deep run this season, they have to make this very obvious defensive scheme against them, NOT WORK.

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