La Salle big men dominate Orizu-less FEU, solidifies 3rd place

Taking advantage of the absence of FEU’s Prince Orizu, the De La Salle University Green Archers flexed their muscle inside the paint – on both offense and defense – to get back at their first round tormentors, 65-57, Saturday, October 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

As the Tamaraws’ foreign player sat out the game due to injury, La Salle’s front court rotation of Justine Baltazar, Santi Santillan, and Fil-Aussie Brandon Bates made the shaded lane their playing ground, combining for 34 points, 30 rebounds, and four blocks.

One minute into the game, it was already a better start for DLSU as they surpassed the historically-low two points that they scored in their previous game against the Adamson Soaring Falcons. The first two quarters was a virtual tie for both teams as Green Archers held a slim 14-13 lead after one before FEU tied at game at 34-all during intermission.

It looked like the Tamaraws were ready to break the game wide open after unleashing a quick 10-0 run early in the third quarter before La Salle answered back with 10 unanswered points of their own courtesy of five straight baskets by DLSU’s trio of big men. Bates’ put back off a missed attempt tied the score at 45-all at the 2:07 mark of the third frame.

“This win – I really credit this to my coaching staff and to my seniors, most especially my captain Kib Montalbo. Through out the game, Kib was really trying to put everybody on the same page. Yung leadership niya, especially when we were down, when they (FEU) made a run, that 10-0 run, yung leadership ni Kib talagang lumabas doon.”

The Tamaraws’ Richard Escoto ended the La Salle run with a lay-up before a trademark, daredevil drive by Montalbo gave DLSU the slim 48-47 lead entering the final 10 minutes of the game.

Trading baskets to start the final period, it wasn’t until the 5:15 mark of the final canto when the Green Archers finally took charge of the outcome. Bates followed his block of Alec Stockton on defense with a nice conversion from an assist from Montalbo for a three-point lead, 56-53.

Aside from holding their Morayta-based opponents to zero points in the next five minutes, a dagger triple from third-year guard Aljun Melecio with 1:15 to go finally gave La Salle the revenge they wanted after losing to the same FEU squad 61-68 in the first round.

“I told them: ‘This will help. A win tonight, malaking tulong ito para sa campaign namin and sa target namin of making it to the Final Four; though alam namin na malayo pa. Pero this game, malaking tulong talaga.’”

The final score could have been bigger is not for the Archers going 8/19 from the charity stripe. However, they completely dominated the other aspects of the game: 51-38 advantage in total rebounds, 4-0 in blocks, and committed less fouls (8-19).

Santillan who finished with a double-double performance of 12 points and 14 rebounds was undoubtedly motivated to play FEU again. “Pinaghirapan namin ito sa simula palang. Talagang deserve namin manalo, tsaka babawi talaga kami kahit papaano.”

Baltazar led the scoring for La Salle with 15 points and six rebounds while Bates provided added muscle with his seven-point, 10-rebound, and two-block effort.

Slowly blooming in his role with the team, rookie Bates has been making a difference in helping DLSU improve to a 6-4 record. “I’m not too confident in myself but it’s nice to know that the coaching staff, the managing staff, the other players, they have confidence in me to step up and do what I need to do. Not being the primary scorer but to help in other ways. So it’s (praises) nice.”

La Salle takes a one-week break before going up against the UST Golden Tigers on Saturday, November 3 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.