MASSIVE WIN! MASSIVE UPset.
The De La Salle Green Archers played an inspired 40 minutes to shoot down the league-leading and defending champions, UP Maroons 82-80 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
It was a different Taft squad that started the game. It was a team that was riding the momentum of the CJ Austria buzzer beater. It was a bunch of wounded warriors ready to battle it out. It was a green and white team playing De La Salle basketball.
Opening the game without his usual combination, the Archers marched out of the dugout ready for that tough battle against the defending champions. But there was something different in the air. The same air that was felt when La Salle defeated Ateneo in the first round.
Trading scoring streaks and facial jams, UP controlled matters in the first half and led 41-35. As the Maroons look to finish a Schonny Winston-less Archers at the opening of the third quarter, the Maroons attacked the Taft defense with a barrage of three’s to build their biggest leads at 37-49 with 7:10 left in the third and 46-58 three playing minutes later.
While UP tried to go for the knockout, La Salle just kept on slugging back. A triple by Mark Nonoy and four second chance points by Kevin Quiambao and Mike Philllips slashed the once imposing double-digit advantage to just five, 53-58.
As the deciding quarter opened at 59-63, it was apparent that these relentless Archers are not going to go silent into the night. Even when the usual gunners were stifled, the second line slingers stepped up.
And of all these slingers, Earl Abadam, the same Archer who stepped up during the Ateneo round one conquest, showed up big time. Abadam unleashed a personal four-point run with a slash and another midrange left baseline pull up to snatch the lead at 67-65 with 6:30 to go sending the La Salle gallery into frenzy.
These green and white fans can finally smell an upset with their green boys starting to break down the defending champions. The swag that came with that erstwhile 10-1 slate was slowly fading.
Then came the game’s flash point. Evan Nelle made a gem of a defensive play and blocked UP’s James Spencer fastbreak lay-up at the rim with the score at 69-all with 4:52 left.
After that monumental block, whatever was left of UP pride went up in smoke.
Michael Phillips scored on a putback off UP’s Malik Diouf, Adadam swished home a midrange and Quiambao made four points off an offensive rebound and an impressive veteran-like spin-and-push shot to stretch the lead to 79-69 with 1:10 left.
La Salle’s ability to close out was put to a test once more with UP’s barrage of 3’s but the Green Archers are steadier now. Quiambao’s two charities closed out the game with 11 seconds left with the score at 82-78.
KQ led all Archers with 18 points while Mark Nonoy finished the game with 15 while Nelle led the team in assists with 7 and Motor Mike Phillips topped the game for rebounds with 14.
The Green Archers finally found their offensive groove without Winston and shot 43% from the field, 49% from 2-point range. La Salle also maximized their bench depth and distributed minutes among 11 Archers.
The signature La Salle defense also showed up and forced UP to 21 turnovers and allowed UP to shoot 38% from the field, lower from their season’s 40.6% clip.
La Salle will face another tough foe as the journey towards the Final Four continues as the Green Archers will face NU on Wednesday, November 23, 2022 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
ANIMO LA SALLE!