By Franco Rimando II
The De La Salle Green Archers routed the NU Bulldogs, 76-65 last Sunday, formalizing the Archers’ return to the Final 4 while shattering NU’s bid for a final 4 slot. The victory was a good end to the eliminations round, and helps build momentum going into Wednesday’s playoff against UP.
The game saw a noticeable improvement in the ball rotation despite missing two starters who were nursing minor injuries. The Archers won the opening tip and immediately created a 6-point advantage on consecutive 3s by Evan Nelle and Benjamin Phillips. The Archers then had a few hiccups after the hot start, allowing the Bulldogs to take the lead after Michael Malonzo made 2-of-2 from the free throw line.
Stung by the sudden burst from the Bulldogs, the Archers took full control the pace of the game after the only lead lead change. DLSU veteran guard Kurt Lojera ignited the rally with a 2 handed fast break dunk off a Mark Nonoy assist and from then on the Archers never looked back as the team managed to keep the Bulldogs at bay until the closing buzzer.
Even as the Archers clamped down on defense, the game was full of offensive highlights. Michael Phillips had 2 dunks, Evan Nelle had 11 assists, Joaquin Manuel shot 44% from the 3-pt line, and the lead ballooned to 15 points in the 4th period. With so many feel-good moments, it nice pressure-free way for the Archers to end the regular season. This, despite the absence of our mainstays, Fil-Am guard Deschon Winston and team captain Balty Baltazar, who sat out the game as a precautionary measure to keep them healthy for the final 4 match this Wednesday at 2pm.
The win cemented the Archers hold of the 3rd place at 9 wins and 5 losses, and will face the UP Fighting Maroons in the traditional F4 playoffs as the possibility of a step ladder format was removed after the UP handed the Blue Eagles its first loss since 2018.
The Archers will need to prepare well this 3-day break especially how the Archers were defeated twice by the Maroons during the regular season.
Animo La Salle!