La Salle’s last elimination round game was billed as a no-bearing game on paper, but for those who were in attendance at the Mall of Asia Arena, the second round match-up against FEU was anything but. Smarting from last week’s 71-83 loss to the Ateneo Blue Eagles, there was no better way for the Green Archers to bounce back and head into the Final Four with a morale-boasting 73-67 win.
For a team that looked like mortals just a week ago at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the come-from-behind victory was just what the team needed heading into the playoff round. With the Archers’ last win over the Tamaraws happening three years ago, the 2-0 regular season sweep also served as a revenge after La Salle was swept by FEU win in the elimination rounds of both Seasons 77 and 78.
Except for a brief moment at the start of the third period, DLSU was trailing for most of the game, and wasn’t able to fully ensure win number 13, and the school’s best record since 2002, until team captain Jeron Teng’s drive gave La Salle the 69-67 go-ahead lead.
The star-less but unpredictable FEU five slowed down the pace for forty minutes, negating the advantages and strengths that La Salle’s mayhem usually thrive on: forcing turnovers, converting errors into fast break points, and cleaning the glass (42-43). As the Green Archers were below par from the field (26/66, 39.4% FG shooting), easy points were at the premium.
Similar to their first round encounter, the Tams took care of the ball, committing only 17 turnovers, stifling La Salle’s chances to go out into the open court for easy baskets. The 17 opponent turnovers and six fast break points scored by the boys yesterday were both season-lows; a scenario that the team must get used to heading into the Final Four where every possession counts.
The physicality and unpredictable officiating seen yesterday will also be a big factor in the team’s championship hopes. As previously mentioned in this space, the Green Archers cannot fall into other teams’ rough and border line dirty tactics. Coach Aldin Ayo and his coaching staff should control what they can control as DLSU still await their semifinal opponent.
Aside from the challenge of being sharp while anxiously waiting for the next game, the boys should concentrate on their glaring weakness on the charity stripe, especially after going 14/23 (60.9%), and executing their set plays. Adding new plays, or introducing other options to old ones will also benefit the team as the three other contenders have already scouted most, if not all, of DLSU’s system.
Next King Archer
While watching the earlier Ateneo-UST game, a former schoolmate asked me the question of who might be the next King Tiger for the Growling Tigers next season. A few hours later, after the DLSU Green Archers rallied to beat the FEU, I am glad that the future of La Salle is in good hands as rookie Aljun Melecio has all the tools to be a great King Archer.
Aside from his much-needed spark and production in the second half, the former UAAP Juniors MVP drilled the last of his two 3-point shots with 1:44 remaining in the game to tie the score at 67-all. The ball rolled around the rim for a few seconds, before finding the bottom of the net; snuffing out whatever upset hopes the Tamaraws had.
Melecio and fellow reserve guard Kib Montalbo would combine for 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and more importantly shoot, five of La Salle’s seven total three-point baskets. With the starting backcourt of Thomas Torres and Brent Paraiso producing a mere three points, the productions of both Aljun and Kib becomes more and more important.
Animo La Salle!