The game was down to its last 8.7 seconds, while the shot clock read 1.9 seconds. The ball was in Jeron Teng’s hands, about to be inbounded. A mad scramble had ensued on the court, with players from both teams jockeying for position. Teng finds Jason Perkins in front of him, and the latter hoists up a difficult shot against the defense of NU’s Alfred Aroga and Kyle Neypes. The ball finds its way down the net just as the horn sounds.
The Bulldogs burn a time-out, while Perkins was mobbed by the other Archers as he trooped back to the bench. It wasn’t the prettiest of plays, a nakaw play, as it is known to Pinoy basketball fans. But today, it was enough to give the Green Archers their maiden win in the 77th Season of the UAAP.
For the third straight game, the Archers found their offense slowing down to a halt in the second half. None of their three-point shots connected, and they were outrebounded by a Bulldogs team that had ceiling to match-up with their own.
But this time, the defending champions were able to execute down the stretch to fend off a pesky NU side, 57-55, earlier today at the Mall of Asia Arena. The win gives the Green Archers their first win, raising their win-loss record to 1-2, while sending the Bulldogs to their first loss of the season.
La Salle’s big men asserted their might in the contest, with Perkins finishing with a game-high 14 points and seven rebounds, while Norbert Torres scored 13 points, grabbed eight boards, and dished out three assists. Teng ended up with nine points, six rebounds, and five assists, but shot 3-for-11 from the field.
Almond Vosotros has seven points, three rebounds, and assist and a steal, but typified La Salle’s struggles from the three-point line, as he shot 3-for-16 from the field and 0-for-9 from beyond the arc. Arnold Van Opstal, who earlier in the day was summoned and given a stern warning by UAAP Commissioner Andy Jao for an alleged punch on Ateneo’s Ponso Gotladera during their match last Sunday, came off the bench for La Salle and finished with seven points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Nursing a slim two-point lead at the start of the fourth, La Salle found itself suddenly down by one, 49-48, after a jump shot by Bulldog Troy Rosario that capped a quick 6-0 run for NU. Norbert Torres, however, restored La Salle’s lead after a split at the charity stripe and a hoop-and-harm basket. Torres, missed two free throws, but Perkins was there for the recovery and sank his two free throws to hand the Archers a 55-51 lead with only thirty-six ticks left.
Aroga drove past Van Opstal for a lay-up to cut the La Salle lead to only a basket. The Archers, on the other end, could not find the mark, but the ball sailed out of bounds with only 1.9 seconds left on their shot, setting the stage for Perkins’ game-saving basket.
A drive to the basket by Teng increased La Salle’s lead to 37-29, early in the third canto, but Aroga, Gelo Alolino, and Glenn Khobuntin scored baskets for the Bulldogs to keep them in the game. Vosotros and Van Opstal traded baskets with NU to restore their advantage, before a basket by Rev Diputado and Khobuntin brought the Bulldogs to within two, 43-45, entering the game’s last ten minutes.
Torres, Perkins, Van Opstal and Teng were crucial for the Archers in the second, when they turned a 21-19 deficit into a 30-23 lead, after an 11-2 scoring binge. Alolino scored five quick points to bring the lead down, but La Salle nailed five of its last six free throws to carry a 35-29 lead into the break.
For the third straight game, La Salle got to a quick start, leading by as much as eight, 12-4 in the game’s early goings, The Bulldogs, however, unleashed a 14-0 bridging the first and second quarters to lead by as much as six, 18-12, early in the second quarter.
Aroga paced the Bulldogs with a dozen points and nine boards, while Rosario was the only other Bulldog in double-figures, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds. Alolino, hitherto the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, finished with nine points, five rebounds, and three assists, though he shot only 3-for-10 from the field.
“We toughened up our defense, especially at the endgame,” says La Salle coach Juno Sauler, referring to their previous games against Ateneo, and FEU. And after giving up 82 and 97 points to their first two opponents, NU only managed 55 on 37% shooting, though the Archers actually fared worse, managing only 35% (22-for-62).
Regarding their field goal shooting, Sauler says that “this is something that we will have to address in practice,” although he asserts that most of these shots were good shots that just didn’t go down.
For this game, Sauler opted for a tighter rotation of just eight players, as opposed to in the previous games where almost everyone from the line-up would see time on the floor. The tall line-up of Van Opstal, Norbert Torres, Perkins, Teng, and Vosotros likewise saw considerable time on the floor.
Notes: According to Sauler, Thomas Torres, who was seen at the game in crutches, is still out for six weeks due to a foot fracture. Kib Montalbo, who replaced Torres in the starting line-up, had two points and four rebounds in 21 minutes, though he shot 1-for-5. Sauler added that he hopes Torres could be back in action this season, hopefully during the team’s last few games in the elimination round.
The Next Game: The Green Archers will try to build on their first win when they face the UE Red Warriors this Sunday, 4pm, also at the MOA Arena.
La Salle- 57- Perkins -14, Torres, N.- 13, Teng-9, Vosotoros-7, Van Opstal-7, Andrada- 3, Montalbo-2, Bolick-0
NU- 55- Aroga-12, Rosario-10, Khobuntin-9, Alolino-9, Javelona-5, Diputado-4, Alejandro-3, Neypes-2, Perez-1, Betayene-0, Atangan-0, Salim-0, Celda-0
Quarterscores: 12-16, 35-29, 45-43, 57-55