When Casio almost single-handedly carried La Salle to victory against FEU, not a few expressed concern about the other Archers stepping up.
And then James Mangahas and Bader Malabes responded.
The two Green Archer forwards sank important baskets in the crucial stretch of the game and helped the Green Archers escape with a victory over the Tigers, 85-84, in the Men’s Basketball Tournament of UAAP Season 71 at the ULTRA.
With the game tied and momentum shifting to the Tigers, sophomore Malabes unloaded his fourth triple of the night to bring La Salle to the driver’s seat, 80-77, silencing the UST gallery in the process. Former De La Salle Zobel standout Jeric Fortuna and main gunner Dylan Ababou immediately scored back-to-back baskets to regain the lead for the Tigers, 81-80, with under a minute before end of regulation period. Unmindful of the mounting pressure on the Green Archers, the three-year veteran Mangahas maneuvered his way out of the UST defense to convert a go-ahead basket, 82-81, 0:47 left in the game clock.
The Tigers frustratingly executed its endplay as the defending champions’ choking defense denied them a clear look on the basket and any second chance points. Casting off the free throw woes in their previous games, the Green Archers’ converted 3 of the 4 all-important charity shots to provide enough breathing space for De La Salle, 84-80. Not even the buzzer beating trey of Ababou was enough to avert UST’s second loss.
De La Salle ties UE and FEU at 2nd place with a 2-1 win-loss card. The Tigers drops to 1-2, with UP and Adamson.
“We passed that particular test. I think that will help us down the stretch. I give credit to my boys. They didn’t succumb to the pressure, even though during the last three minutes, UST made a run. I don’t know if I am just really lucky, I didn’t call a time out right away, probably I am lucky or I have so much confidence in my boys that we can bounce back and execute well,” said a visibly relieved Coach Franz Pumaren.
That confidence was also seen in Mangahas as he worked his way around UST’s interior defense. The former PCU Baby Dolphin scored 14 of his 18 points in the 2nd half even as Casio again topscored for La Salle with 19 points. Malabes added in 16 markers.
“I think we’re lucky to have survived that game. Rico didn’t get his groove tonight, got into early foul trouble. Just that my role players really step up in this particular game,” added Coach Franz.
It was a see-saw affair in the 1st half which featured seven lead changes. At the end of the first half, Casio led the cause for the Taft-based squad with 12 markers while Mark Canlas exploded with 10 points for the Espana-based cagers.
In the 3rd quarter, Mangahas scored 8 straight points followed by a back-to-back rainbow connection from Malabes to pad the lead of La Salle, 56-48. But Ababou and last season’s MVP Jervy Cruz kept the Tigers at bay at the quarter’s end, 63-58.
The Tigers scored 8 quick points at the opening of the last quarter, anchored on the three-point shot of Ababou and 3-point play by Fortuna, to equalize the game at 66-all. But the Archers maintained their composure and traded baskets with the Tigers until the final deadlock at 77 all going into the last two minutes of the game.
The match also featured the season debut of Green Archer sophomore Marko Batricevic and rookie MJ Mendoza.
The Archers next meet the winless NU Bulldogs on Saturday, July 19.
DLSU 85 – Casio 19, Mangahas 18, Malabes 16, Maierhofer 8; Barua 7; Revilla 6; Walsham 4; Villanueva 3; Webb 2; Atkins 2; Mendoza 0, Bagatsing 0, Ferdinand 0; Batricevic 0
UST 84 – Ababou 23, Cruz 20, Canlas 18, Allera 12, Fortuna 5, Cuan 4, Taylor 2, Fenequito 0, Camus 0, Bautista 0, Mirza 0, Gile 0
Quarter Scores: 18-14; 38-34; 63-58; 85-84