La Salle sweeps Red Warriors behind Serrano’s career game

Save for a few tense moments early in the second half, the DLSU Green Archers cruised past the UE Red Warriors, 79-59, Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena. Rookie Encho Serrano and fellow reserve guard Andre Caracut combined to score 34 of the team’s total 40 bench points as La Salle climbed to 5-3, only half a game behind the league leaders, as of press time.

Leaning on the combined 25-point effort of Balti Baltazar and Santi Santillan, the Taft-based squad raced to a 47-36 lead at half time and never looked like they were a bit threatened by the 1-7 UE squad. However, a quick 10-2 run by the Red Warriors suddenly made the game much more interesting as a field goal by league’s top scorer, Alvin Pasaol, at the 5:46 mark trimmed the Archers’ lead to just three, 49-46.

Last year’s losing finalist answered back with a 17-3 rally of their own – a rally that was started by a Caracut jumper and ended with Serrano put back off his own miss just as the final third quarter buzzer sounded.

It was all La Salle from then; building the lead to as large as 22 after a fast break layup from Sarrano off a Miguel Corteza steal with 1:00 remaining. With today’s win, the Archers swept the season series against their Recto-based counterpart after also winning 82-72 last September 23.

With several teams bunched up at the top of the league standings, DLSU head coach Louie Gonzales stressed the importance of getting the team’s fifth victory. “Going into this game, I told them na, with the situation right now (in) the standings, every win counts. I told them (that) even (with this game), we respect UE. Kahit sino ang kalaban namin, we need to put (in) the work.”

Coming off a 79-78 overtime win against the Adamson Soaring Falcons last Saturday, the team looked sharp in its flow and execution heading into this Saturday’s rematch against the same Adamson squad at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Aside from dropping his UAAP senior’s career-high of 18 points, Serraro also registered six rebounds to go along with two assists and two steals. Caracut wound up with 16 points, six rebounds, and two assists while Santillan and Baltazar combined forces for 25 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Gonzales was all praises for his two reserve guards: “Kailangan ko sila. I need them to.. na bumalik iyong kumpiyansa nila sa game and good thing, these two (Serrano and Caracut) showed up today.”

The former Adamson Baby Falcon paid off his coach’s confidence the best way he can: “Ginawa lang namin yung best namin at tsaka yung gustong (p)agawa ni coach sa amin, sinusunod lang namin. Kasi tuwing hindi kami sumusunod sa kanya, kahit anong gawin namin, kahit malakas iyong team namin, parang nawawala kami kasi ‘pag (may) ginawa ang isa na hindi alam ng lahat, nawawala iyong team namin. Kaya kung ano iyong sistema na pinapagawa ni coach, iyon lang ang ginagawa namin.”

Despite tallying 22 points, La Salle’s big men rotation of Baltazar, Santillan, Mark Dyke, and even Corteza made sure that Pasaol earned every single point he scored. Other than Chris Conner’s 12, no other Red Warrior finished in double digits.

DLSU 79 – Serraro 18, Caracut 16, Santillan 13, Baltazar 12, Melecio 8, Montalbo 3, Manuel 3, Bates 2, Dyke 2, Corteza 2, Go 0, Capacio 0

UE 59 – Pasaol 22, Conner 12, Varilla 7, Bartolome 6, Cullar 3, Antiporda 3, Manalang 2, Acuno 2, Sobrevega 2, Guion 0, Gagate 0, Beltran 0, Lacap 0, Strait 0

Quarter scores: 21-16, 47-36, 66-49, 79-59