By Neal Tieng
Too Little, Too Late
For 38 minutes, the De La Salle Green Archers played lackadaisical basketball against the UP Maroons tonight, before they woke up and tried to overhaul a 12-point lead. They almost did it. But they came one triple short, and ran out of time in their catch-up effort.
With the score at 69-72 and just seconds left, the Green Archers were in a position to send the game into overtime. The perfectly executed play laid out by Coach Derek left Mark Nonoy wide open in the left corner, but the hero of the UE game could not summon his heroics this time as he overshot the potential game-tying bucket.
The loss pulled La Salle’s record down to 7-4, still at solo third with three games remaining in the regular season.
Faced with a 59-71 deficit with 2:21 to go, Schonny Winston took charge and chopped down the lead one possession at a time. Winston’s personal eight-point run from draining two jumpers and four free throws in the next minute and twenty seconds raised hopes that a comeback was possible.
And if Winston was coming up big in the clutch, UP started choking. UP’s prized rookie Carl Tamayo clanged two free throws and the suddenly erratic guards of the Maroons kept turning the ball over.
All those Maroons turnovers and missed free throws kept the comeback door open for La Salle.
With 10 seconds to go, Michael “Motor Mike” Phillips followed up a missed transition twisting lay-up by Winston to put the Green Archers in prime position to complete the miraculous comeback only being down by two, 69-71 with 10 seconds left.
La Salle fouled UP’s Ricci Rivero to stop the clock in the next play and the former Archer missed the front end of his two charity shots to keep the game within one possession at 69-72 with eight seconds left.
But as the basketball Gods would not reward 38 minutes of bad basketball, La Salle came three-points short of completing the comeback with Nonoy’s missed three.
Deschon Winston and Justin Baltazar both had 16 points in the losing effort, while Kurt Lojera chipped in 13 points. Baltazar and Michael Phillips once again led the team in rebounding with 12 and 14 respectively.
38 Minutes of Bad Archers
The close score will only hide the bad – La Salle played terrible basketball for 38 minutes. La Salle was 26-of-85 from the field for a head-scratching 30.6% field goal percentage while shooting 5-of-23 (21.7%) from beyond the three-point line.
Through the second quarter when the Green Archers went on five minutes without a field goal, UP was able to stretch their lead to 16 mostly due to the 28.2% field goal percentage of La Salle in the first half.
Although the Green Archers grabbed more offensive boards than the Maroons (24-14), La Salle only matched UP’s 18 makes on second chances. Which illuminated one thing, we were clearing the boards but not converting them into points.
The Maroons also deliberately ran at every opportunity and did not want to face a set La Salle defense. By running the break, they also negated the imposing defensive presence of Michael Phillips and Baltazar. At the end of the game, UP outscored La Salle 19-8 on transition baskets.
The Road Ahead
With a 7-4 record and three games to go, La Salle has one of the more challenging schedules having to face the recharged FEU Tamaraws on Tuesday, the resurging Adamson Falcons and the NU Bulldogs during their last playdates.
La Salle needs to win at least two out of their last three games to avoid complications for the Final Four slot.