Even the best soap and primetime shows pale in comparison to the plots and subplots in yesterday’s La Salle versus UP game. The Green Archers were hunting for the final slot in the Final Four while at the same time trying to exact revenge from a 66-71 first round upset.
DLSU drew first blood by running off to a 19-6 advantage after the first 10 minutes thanks to Josh Torralba and Prince Rivero’s combined 11 points. UP recovered in the next period outscoring, La Salle 8-20 as the Archers could only make two of 14 field goal attempts after going 7/16 in the first quarter.
UP also won the third quarter, 26-22 and was leading 52-49 entering the fourth but the highlight of period came at the 8:43 mark where a bizarre incident involving UP’s Piero Longa added to the drama and tension of DLSU’s game number 13. The La Salle coaching staff called the game officials’ attention and pointed out that Longa was wearing a different type of shorts, causing the game to be stopped by a few minutes.
It was all heart, steely determination and a little bit of luck that endured La Salle to finally wrest control of the lead in the final frame and notch win number six. A 20-8 rally turned a 49-54 deficit into a relatively comfortable 69-60 DLSU lead with 2:52 remaining.
Whatever offense the Green Archers lacked in the last few moments was filled up by great defensive effort; forcing UP’s Gelo Vito to commit an offensive foul, pressuring a key turnover by Cheick Kone and a five-second violation in the Fighting Maroons’ last possessions.
The hard-fought 72-68 win definitely took a toll on the Archers as Jeron Teng’s back was clearly in pain after the game while Tomas Torres needed his left ankle to be re-tapped after injuring it in the 4th quarter.
You can question the team’s tactics, rotation and substitution patterns but you can never doubt the size of their hearts. The two senior players together with Prince (18 points, 16 rebounds, three assists) left a little piece of themselves on the Araneta hardcourt, finishing with a combined production of 31 points, 16 rebounds and three assists.
Kudos to the Animo Squad
Special shoutout goes to the DLSU Animo Squad (particularly to the cheerleaders assigned at the right side of Section 315). Aside from cheering and chanting for the whole game, some members also took the time to encourage and train/remind the La Salle gallery to keep on cheering whether the team was leading (Go La Salle!) or trailing (Let’s go Archers, let’s go!).
This is in stark contrast to last Sunday’s 62-73 loss to Ateneo where a number of supporters and alumni in the DLSU side were seen leaving the venue even before the final buzzer ended; not even staying to sing the alma mater.
Injuries and wear and tear
Aside from Jeron hurting his back in the first half and Tomas tweaking his ankle, Julian Sargent, the team’s best perimeter defender remains day-to-day with a hamstring injury. Sargent last played significant minutes (16.67) against UE (Oct. 14) and the 4th year player was sorely missed in losses against Adamson, NU and Ateneo.
Sargent’s length and quick feet would have helped the Green Archers contain the Falcon’s Joseph Nalos, who exploded for 12 points in the 4th quarter and defend the Bulldog’s Jay-J Alejandro (25 points) and Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal, who combined for 32 points.
With another week’s rest and rehabilitation, here’s hoping that Julian will be fit to play versus FEU and cause havoc to the Tamaraws’ perimeter players.
Mother nature and basketball gods’ plans
The league and the basketball gods could not have scripted the final games of the elimination rounds any better. The UP game was initially the Green Archers’ last assignment of the 2nd round, but Typhoon Lando postponed the second meeting between La Salle and FEU (10-2) last October 18 and was rescheduled on November 18.
The second round tiff is important to both the Tamaraws and DLSU as a win secures the Morayta-based squad a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four while a La Salle victory gives us at least a playoff for the fourth and final spot.
Whatever happens between National U (6-7) and FEU on Saturday, it’s great to know that the Archers can still control how they want their Season 78 to be remembered by beating the Tamaraws next Wednesday. Beating one of the top teams in the league is a daunting task, but in this unpredictable season, La Salle just needs to keep dig deep, play hard and have complete faith in themselves and their teammates.
Animo La Salle!