After the smoke cleared in Ateneo’s Blue Eagle Gym, the De La Salle Lady Archers came out as victors in a gritty 56-50 win over the UST Tigresses to open up their own title defense campaign in UAAP Season 77 Women’s Basketball competition. It was a rematch of an also-equally tightrope Season 76 Final Four game where we saw then-rookie Camille Claro’s buzzer-beating trey to send the game to OT and eventually giving the Lady Archers the ticket to the finals (and we all know what happened next).
This was a good test this early in the season because UST is considered as one of the title favorites after finishing runners-up to NU in the 2014 FilOil Flying V Pre-Season Cup and the Tigresses also won the the Father Martin’s Cup in the women’s division this past summer. UST is also coming back with an almost intact line up from last season compared to DLSU who lost one of its prolific players in Ara Abaca. Almost all coaching staff of the other six schools were also in the venue to scout how both teams looked like.
The first half was a feeling out portion for both teams. UST took an early 7-0 lead but DLSU’s defense tightened up, forcing UST to take hurried shots and give up the ball easily on the dribble and that enabled the Lady Archers to take a 10-7 lead towards the end of the opening quarter. Most of DLSU’s points came from the fastbreak, making UST pay for their own mistakes. UST was able to score because of their hustle and activity on the boards. Those second chance points made UST stay close in the opening period courtesy of Lore Rivera.
Come second quarter, Maica Cortes’ presence for UST suddenly changed the tide of the game for a little bit. DLSU had to focus their defense inside the paint and that left some UST players open for easy baskets underneath. The Lady Archers also made passing errors giving UST baskets on the break which transformed a 20-17 deficit to a 24-20 lead nearing the end of the second quarter. Trisha Piatos’ lone three-ball in the first half cut UST’s lead to 24-23 which was also the half time score. Free throws also hurt DLSU in the first half as they were 0-for-6 while UST went 5-for-10 from the charity stripe.
In the third period, Coach Tyrone Bautista did shuffle his players more by making timely substitutions. First, he made sure that Inna Corcuera and rooke Jamie Roxas were fresh enough to bang bodies with UST’s Cortes to negate their presence inside the paint. Eventually, Cortes got tired and was not able to move around that much compared in the first half. In the backcourt, Coach Ty shuffled Miller Ong, Piatos, Garcia, Vergara, and Claro to make sure that the Lady Archers can push the ball on the break and they can still trap and do their full-court pressure defense.
Piatos, Corcuera, and Vergara keyed a crucial run in the third quarter to give DLSU a 39-29 lead and the Lady Archers never looked back actually after getting that lead. The Lady Archers outscored the Tigresses, 18-9 to take a 41-33 lead entering the final period. UST looked lost in the quarter as they tried to play up tempo on offense since they are trying to cut and catch up on DLSU’s lead but instead, that tempo backfired on them as it resulted to turnovers and allowed DLSU to get their offense going.
The final quarter was a test of mental toughness for the Lady Archers as they got into penalty situation early with seven minutes to go in regulation. The referees were just trigger happy for the Lady Archers as they whistled every time a contact was made. It was evident in the free throw disparity as the Tigresses attempted for 36 free throws the whole game but unfortunately, Coach Chris Cantonjos’ wards converted only 13 of those freebies from the 15-foot line. DLSU, on the other hand was awarded only with 10 free throw attempts (converting only 3) amidst the physicality of the game.
In the final period, Nicky Garcia fouled out with five minutes left while Miller Ong also fouled out with two minutes left in the game. However, the Lady Archers stayed tough on top of these challenges and warded off every UST rally. Whenever the Tigresses threatened, Piatos always had an answer. The fifth-year veteran, drilled in four of her five treys in the second half to thwart every UST effort in the second half. She finished the game with 23 points (18 in the second half) with 5-of-10 shooting from long distance and she was also 4-of-5 from two-point range.
Camille Claro iced the game by sinking both her free throws after she got fouled by stealing off UST’s cross court pass in the closing seconds of the game. The Lady Archers’ next assignment is against the FEU Lady Tamaraws on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 11:00am in Ateneo’s Blue Eagle Gym. The FEU Lady Tamaraws also scored a win in their opening game against the UE Amazons, 52-37 via April Siat’s 15 markers.
DLSU 56 – Piatos 23, Garcia 9, Vergara 8, Claro 6, Melendres 4, A. Ong 2, Roxas 2, Corcuera 2, Castillo 0, M. Ong 0.
UST 50 – Reyes 14, Rivera 11, Felisarte 10, Cortes 8, Magdaluyo 4, Siapoc 3, Penaflor 0, Angeles 0, Mandilag 0, Isanan 0, Brillantes 0.
Quarter Scores: 14-12, 23-24, 41-33, 56-50