The National University Bulldogs hope to sustain their amazing winning streak in the Finals of the 2012 FilOil Flying V Pre-Season Hanes Cup against the upset-conscious De La Salle Green Archers on Independence Day, June 12, at The Arena in San Juan City.
Led by the spectacular Bobby Ray Parks, who has been averaging 18.5 points per game, the Bulldogs swept the elimination round and made mince meat of defending UAAP champions Ateneo Blue Eagles in the semis, 85-68, to book the first finals ticket.
But they will be challenged by a rejuvenated La Salle side, which slew three giants in a row, beginning with archrival Ateneo (62-59), then San Sebastian in the quarterfinals (84-70), and finally defending NCAA titlist San Beda in the semis (50-46).
Under new coach Gee Abanilla, La Salle slowly worked its way up in this tournament through its tough and aggressive defense. DLSU allows its opponents just 63.8 points per game, which is third-best in the tournament. In the semis, the Archers limited the Red Lions to only 46 points, a far cry from the latter's average of 71.9 points. The Archers are very disciplined with their defensive rules and the effort of each member on the floor is evident.
NU, on the other hand, ranks first in scoring, with 81.3 points per game. Against the Eagles, Parks exploded with 30 points, on remarkable 12-of-17 shooting or 71%. He was unstoppable with his off-the-dribble jumpers. But what sealed the victory for NU was that the other Bulldogs also had their fingers in the scoring pie, with three others posting double digit numbers — Jeoff Javillionar (13 points), Denice Villamor (12 points), and Emmanuel Mbe (10 points). The team shot 51% from the field and converted 10 treys. This was just too much firepower even for a great defensive team like Ateneo. Coach Eric Altamirano's boys are playing beautiful music on the hard court and know their respective roles very well.
So it will be interesting to test the Bulldogs' offense versus the Archers' defense.
Also to watch out for is the match-up between Mbe and Norbert Torres of La Salle. Torres has shown tremendous improvement this season, especially with his post moves. He is the Archers' top scorer in the tournament with 11.6 per game. He totally outplayed San Beda import Olaide Adeogun, posting numbers of 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists versus the latter's 7 markers and 6 boards. Torres has become the main offensive weapon of DLSU inside the paint, which has also opened up its gunners.
The Archers have become deeper this year, without a doubt. The entry of rookie sensation Jeron Teng (11.5 points per game) has definitely been a huge lift for La Salle's scoring. LA Revilla, Almond Vosotros and Mark Tallo are also respectable shooters.
Many are convinced that NU will win the tournament on Tuesday, especially that it has been unconquered so far. But La Salle is riding on a staggering momentum after three straight colossal upset wins. The Archers are raring to prove that they will be a force to reckon with in the coming UAAP wars. And the Bulldogs are hungry for a basketball title they have not tasted in many years.