Thomas Jefferson once said, “if you want something you never had, then you have to be willing to do something you never did”.
The dampened spirits of the DLSU Green Archers learned this the hard way after a pulsating loss to their bitter rival, Ateneo, last October 4, 2023, at the MOA Arena.
Up to the last two minutes, the two heavyweights traded lethal blows and spurts trying to put the game on ice. But neither La Salle, nor Ateneo gave up. Both traded scoring runs and defensive stops until the 64-all mark of the game with 2:54 left in the game after Kevin Quiambao drained a triple.
Ateneo rookie Mason Amos grabbed back the lead with his version of a triple 14 seconds later and canned another one to stretch the lead to six, 64-70 going into the last two minutes mark.
Quiambao summoned his inner Steph Curry and sank one from top of the key to bring La Salle to within three, 67-70 before Katipunan high flyer Kyle Balungay tomahawk-jammed La Salle into submission, pulled away 67-72 with 1:29 to play
Then it was 90 seconds of swapping baskets before Ateneo pulled it off 72-77.
Quiambao and Evan Nelle carried the offensive load for La Salle tallying 17 and 15 respectively.
Lesson #1: Tip-off to end game buzzer relentless and intense basketball needed to win
At one point, La Salle led by as much as 9 shortly before the end of the third, 54-45. All cylinders were clicking with the Archers playing stellar at both ends of the floor.
Defensively, they were flaring the Blue Eagles with efficient switching and forcing them into a number of shot clock violations. Offensively, the ball movement was smooth and beautiful. It was good basketball.
Until it wasn’t.
In just two minutes of low IQ basketball, Ateneo swiftly came back. From a triple from Chris Koon to John Obasa suddenly had Hakeem Olajuwon’s nifty shake and bake, and capped by an uncontested, momentum-shifting, dunk by Kyle Balungay cut the lead to three, 54-51.
After the Ian Espinosa tear-drop basket, Balungay recovered his own triple miss off an errant La Salle box-out and found a skyway to the rim for another slam to take the lead, 54-55.
All this happened in just two and a half minutes of carelessness.
By losing that nine-point lead, La Salle found themselves in a dog fight, with the momentum clearly on the side of the defending champions.
Lesson #2: If you don’t rebound, don’t expect to win.
Ateneo only had 30 rebounds the entire game against NU.
Against La Salle, they had 66, 27 of them were offensive rebounds.
The blues grabbed 36 more rebounds against the green shirts compared to their match opposite NU. Those rebounds resulted into eight more Ateneo attempts and 18 second-chance points that spelled the difference between winning and losing.
On the other side, La Salle grabbed 50, one less rebound than their first FEU match.
Coaches often refer to rebound as an effort stat.
No effort, no rebound.
No rebound, no W’s.
Lesson #3: There is no superhighway to glory
Every championship team will go through storms before reaching glory. Some teams disintegrate under adversity and eventually self-destruct before reaching their goals.
But the great ones go through great adversity before knowing how to win.
The DLSU turn of the millennium dynasty run had to go through four bridesmaid finishes before ruling the UAAP for almost half a decade.
The team has to allow heartbreaks and disappointments to galvanize the team, the program and reinvigorate its tradition.
Nothing that great will ever come easy.