Elimination round meetings
Round 1 – NU def. DLSZ 80-55
Round 2 – NU def. DLSZ 63-52
The S78 Finals rematch between these two teams in round one was a bowout, with the Bullpups dominating the Junior Archers from start to finish. NU’s blend of size and athleticism proved to be too much for the Junior Archers to handle.
Their second round match-up was much closer, with NU winning by just 11 points. The Junior Archers put up an inspired fight here, but the Bullpups’ size was enough to catapult NU to a victory against their Finals foes from last year.
Key Player for the NU Bullpups
Zobel is a relatively small team that uses their ball movement to get open baskets. They shoot a ton of three-pointers, living or dying by their three-bal. Since this is the case, the Bullpups will need as much help as possible from Winderlich Coyoca to stop the Junior Archers.
Coyoca is known for being a long, pesky defender, but he has also shown improvement on the offensive end, creating at times, but mostly scoring off fast break opportunities and assists.
Winderlich will certainly find his points, but it’s his defense which is important in this match-up. If he can force enough tough shots, the Bullpups might be looking at a sixth straight Finals appearance under Coach Jeff Napa.
Key Player for the DLSZ Junior Archers
NU is a team that is very big. They may no longer have Justine Baltazar in the mix, but they’re still taller than most teams. Because of that, DLSZ will need as much production as possible from big man Martin Romero.
True, Romero is a bit undersized, but he more than makes up for that with his big frame and a solid midrange game. It’s the latter which will be key here, as his ability to space the floor can create opportunities for their guards like Jan Sobrevega and Astro Vista.
While his contributions on the defensive end will certainly be important. The Junior Archers will need him to pour in the points in this one.
Coach Jeff Napa is someone who has specialized in using big men in his system. Last year, he had Justine Baltazar leading the way. Sadly, he doesn’t have him anymore as Justine has taken his talents to Taft.
No Balti? No problem. Napa still has a plethora of bigs, as Karl Penano and Rhayyan Amsali are two lefties who are more than capable of holding down the fort for NU. Amsali is a versatile forward who plays point-forward, while Penano is a hulking big capable of scoring down low. While those two attract the defense, that leaves John Lloyd Clemente to create for himself, coming from the wings. They’ll practically use the same formula they used to beat DLSZ last year. Start with their bigs, while Clemente roams around for easy buckets.
For DLSZ, they’re known as a team with a high-octane offense. They play small, and put an emphasis on production from their guards. They no longer have a leader like an Aljun Melecio or a Renzo Subido, but Jan Sobrevega and company have done enough to get them to the postseason.
To have a chance against NU, Zobel will have to play at their very best. That means perfect basketball (close to perfect isn’t enough), with the team hitting most of their three’s and their bigs putting their NU counterparts in foul trouble, courtesy of their pick and rolls with their guards.
This is no longer like last season. Zobel lost their core, while NU just lost Justine Baltazar. Justine is a damn good player, but if you have guys like John Lloyd Clemente, Rhayyan Amsali and an improved Winderlich Coyoca, then your chances at a championship are good. In a Final Four game against a depleted Zobel team? You can lock them in.
Zobel has had a good season, but their squad isn’t good enough to contend for a championship, not if it’s NU in their path to the Finals. They could have given teams like Ateneo and FEU a run for their money. But against the defending champions Bullpups? Highly unlikely.