CONSIDERING the effort that the players gave, La Salle’s preseason loss to rival Ateneo was a hard pill to swallow for Archers coach Aldin Ayo.
“Oo parang UAAP eh. Parang season. Ito yung mga talo na kumukurot eh,” Ayo said following a lengthy discussion with his assistants after the two-point defeat in the Filoil Premier Cup.
But Ayo has around three months to fine tune everything that needs to be improved for his squad.
Though they still have Ben Mbala to man the paint, Ayo has a generally young squad following the departure of leaders Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins and Thomas Torres.
The losses have been telling for La Salle, by four points or less – all against veteran squads in Jose Rizal University, San Beda and Ateneo.
After sweeping the preseason tournament last year, they’re now in danger of missing out the quarterfinals, toting a 4-3 record, with a game to go.
Ayo attributes those close losses to inexperience and he’s confident that it’s an issue that they can fix soon.
“Yung mga sa bench last year they are the ones who are starting tapos yung mga last year na wala sa rotation, nasa rotation na ngayon so nag aadjust ang mga yun,” Ayo said.
He will be looking at Kib Montalbo, a guy who missed action against the Blue Eagles, to take on the leadership role even as Ricci Rivero, Justine Baltazar and transferee Leonard Santillan are expected to play major minutes.
“Ako very optimistic naman ako na come UAAP time, sila Ricci alam na niya kugn ano mga mali niya nitong preseason tournament. He’ll be ready come UAAP and si Santillan naman, he’s a rookie pero beterano na rin naman yun. Kailangan lang niya mag- adjust sa UAAP,” Ayo continued.
“Baltazar… this is his second year pero last year di naman nakukuha yung ganung playing time pero now he’s going to play. So adjustment period.”