“Feeling mo ba na yung laro mo ngayon, nakukuha mo na yung laro mo nung nasa Baste ka pa?” piped in one of the reporters inside the Press Room of the MOA Arena right after the game between the Green Archers and the Fighting Maroons.
The question was directed at point guard Almond Vosotros, who was formerly a San Sebastian Staglet and one of the deadliest scorers during his time in the NCAA Juniors Division. He seemed to chew on the question for some time before mustering a reply.
“Alam nyo sa totoo lang, di ko na maalala yung laro ko noon eh,” was Vosotros’ reply, eliciting laughs from the members of the media. But although his memories may have turned into fluid regarding his playing days in Baste, Vosotoros is certainly making fresh memories as a member of the Green Archers.
Take this game, for instance.
The first twenty minutes saw him fielded for only a handful of minutes, with only a single point (a free throw scored with 39 seconds left in the second period) and one rebound across his name. But after the next twenty minutes, his final statline: 21 points anchored on three booming triples, a 7-of-12 shooting day from the field, four boards, a steal and only a single turnover. All of this he did in twenty minutes.
After Norbert Torres and Jeron Teng took turns in shredding the State U defense in the first half and combined for 29 of La Salle’s 41 first half points, it was Vosotoros 20 second-half points and his dialling from long distance that enabled the Archers to preserve their 76-69 victory against the Fighting Maroons earlier today at the MOA Arena. The win was their seventh in the tournament that gave them a one-game lead of the idle NU Bulldogs (6-5) for the fourth spot in the standings.
“Nag-fofocus lang talaga ako sa game,” he said regarding his performance. “Lalo na since wala si LA [Revilla] alam kong kailangan akong mag step-up.” And step up he did.
With 1:18 remaining and the Archers up by only six, 72-66, La Salle was in possession of the ball but had only one second to work with on their shot clock. Mac-Mac Tallo was charged with the inbounding duties near the basket and he found Vosotros waiting in the corner for a three-pointer that swished through the net as the shot clock expires. The score was 75-66, and the final nail in the coffin had been hammered by the Albay native Vosotros.
The Fighting Maroons, despite being booted out of contentions for the Final Four, still lived up to their moniker and fought tooth-and-nail with the Archers for the entire game and were down by only a single point, 54-55, with 7:33 left in the game before a 13-4 blast anchored by 11 points by Vosotros allowed the Archers to zoom ahead.
“UP did a good job today, forcing us into 17 turnovers, and their record really does not show the way they play,” said Archers mentor Gee Abanilla. “But hat’s off to the Almond and the boys for playing well.”
The Maroons were also able to grab the lead several times during the contest, the last on a jumper by Paolo Romero that put them up 48-45 with 4:55 left in the third. But once more, a 10-2 blitz by Vosotros and Jovet Mendoza to end the third allowed La Salle to bring in a 54-50 heading into the game’s last ten minutes.
And when asked on their thoughts regarding their chances of nabbing the upper spots in the standings, which are currently being held by Ateneo, FEU, and UST, Abanilla said, “I have always told the boys to be ambitious and to dream big. Good things happen to those who work hard.”
The Mad Dash to the Finish Line (Final 4 Update): The victory enabled La Salle (7-4) to get a little more separation from the NU Bulldogs (6-5), although this one-game lead could go down the drain if they lose to them on Sunday. Losing to the Bulldogs will tie the records of both teams at (7-5) for the fourth and final seed in the semis, with two games remaining for both teams (FEU and Adamson for La Salle, and Ateneo and UP for NU).
A win by the Archers, however, would give them a huge two-game lead over the Bulldogs, as they will wind up with an 8-4 card against the 6-6 card of the ‘Dogs. A victory by La Salle would even give them a shot at the three and two spots held by FEU and UST, who are currently toting similar 8-3 slates.
The Next Game: In what will be their most important game of the tournament, the Archers will go up against the NU Bulldogs this Sunday, September 9, at 4 p.m. at the MOA Arena.
Notes: LA Revilla was in uniform for today’s game and actually warmed up along with the rest of the team, but did not play. “He was feeling the court today,” said Abanilla about Revilla, although he will still be checked-up tomorrow by doctors to determine if he can finally play on Sunday against the Bulldogs; Yutien Andrada, who returned to action against Ateneo last Saturday, started the game for the Archers and played for 25 minutes, scoring two points, grabbing seven rebounds, and blocking three shots.
DLSU-76-Vosotros-21, Teng-19, Torres, N.-13, Mendoza-7, Van Opstal-6, Torres, T.-4, Andrada-2, Manguera-2, Tampus-2, Tallo-0, Webb-0
UP-69-Silungan-14, Manuel-12, Lopez-10, Padilla-9, Asilum-6, Soyud-4, Romero-4, Gamboa-3, Mbah-2, Montecastro-2, Hipolito-2, Ball-1
Quarterscores: 19-14, 41-34, 54-50, 76-69