Thursday, July 14, 2011


History Lesson:
The Letran Knights and the Arellano Chiefs split their season series last year in the war between "team that likes to press the most" and "team that likes to zone the most." In the first encounter, the Chiefs rode a 26 to 7 second quarter to a squeaker of a 78-76 win, powered by a career-high 29 points from Gerald Lapuz, who proved impossible for the Knights to shift. Letran got its revenge though in round two, as Jam Cortes' 19 points trumped the 19 of Isiah Ciriacruz. The difference was that Cortes was backed by 17 from Franz Dysam and 14 from JP Belencion, while Ciriacruz was the only scorer in double digits for Arellano in that 72-58 beatdown. In both games, the team that wound up with more turnover points, somehow lost.

Letran Storyline : The Knights have become more diverse as a squad, with the emergence of second-year player VJ Espiritu and the addition of rookie Kevin Racal, coupled with a growth in maturity for Kevin Alas. No longer does Alas need to dominate the ball so much, taking on entire defenses by himself. The team as a whole has also played much better defense, not letting up the pressure from start to finish.
Stat to Watch : With the Chiefs expected to rely on their bread and butter zone, three-point shooting is going to be important for Letran. Should Espiritu or Racal wax hot from long-range, the Chiefs might abandon the zone, and shift to man to man. If they don't, then bombs away!
Player to Watch : With the graduation of JP Belencion, the Knights needed a three-point marksman to take over his role. VJ Espiritu seems to have stepped into Belencion's shoes. After a 0/3 season opener, Espiritu knocked down 4 of 9 against Perpetual. If the Knights want to win, they'd better hope that the latter Espiritu is the one that shows up to play.

Arellano Storyline : Facing a press-happy team in JRU, the Chiefs went against conventional thinking and shrunk their rotation, with head coach Leo Isaac betting against fatigue crippling his guys. The move paid off as the Chiefs were saved by a Gerald Lapuz prayer that forced OT, before dominating in the extra period. One expects Isaac to apply "If it ain't broke, why fix it," to this game, as they face another team that loves to press.
Stat to Watch : Arellano starters logged some pretty heavy minutes against JRU, none more so than Prince Caperal who played the entire game, though Rocky Acidre (42 minutes) and Lapuz (41 minutes) must also have been exhausted by game's end. Depending on the schedule, this might not be the most sustainable move, but Isaac knows his bench better than I do. He might just be implying, "the other guys would kill us if I field them in."
Player to Watch : After playing a perfect, 0 turnover game against Emilio Aguinaldo College, Rocky Acidre nearly proved to be Arellano's downfall, contributing 9 big turnovers against JRU. Offensively, Acidre has been a machine, shooting fifty percent from the field (11 of 22) while averaging 2.5 assists per game, but Letran is a fiercer pressing team, and any errors will certainly be pounced upon by the Knights.

Prediction: Letran Knights

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