By Neal Tieng
Murdered in the third.
After keeping in stride with our crosstown rivals Ateneo in the first half, the Green Archers fell victim to the Blue Eagles, who unleased a deadly 10-27 third quarter to deliver La Salle’s sixth loss in nine games, 54-68, at the Big Dome.
Tied at 29-all at halftime, Ateneo crashed out of the gates blazing by detonating a 18-3 bomb that started with a triple by Katipunan import Ange Kouame, and with that they ran away with the game 32-47 with three minutes left in quarter.
It was an ugly seven minutes of basketball with a Green Archers offense stuck in reverse. Slow ball movement, turnovers and bricking contested long bombs translated into uncontested fastbreaks for the other side. And when the third quarter was history, so was the game with the green team staring at a huge 17-point deficit, 39-56, a lead that they need to overhaul in 10 short minutes.
But you cannot overhaul 17 points in one quarter against a well-coached team like the Eagles. Although La Salle managed to cut down the lead to 49-61 with a little over 4 minutes left, it was clear that it was an exercise in futility.
The loss pushed the Green Archers down the standings with a 3-6 card going into the middle of the second round with five games to go.
Sorely missing their offensive anchor in Schonny Winston, the Green Archers’ offensive woes were magnified by an inability of the Archers to get the ball through the net. The Taft squad shot 27.1% from the field and misfired all game long with an atrocious 4-of-18 from the three-point zone for a 22.2% clip.
Offensive shortcoming was not the only story.
La Salle got outhustled off the boards 43-49, and got the ball stolen 14 times while committing 20 turnovers.
The Green Archers will resume their hunt for that elusive Final Four slot on Thursday against the Adamson Falcons. A loss to the Falcons would likely deal a crushing blow to the dimming hopes of the Green Archers’ Final Four ambitions.
It isn’t over yet, but unless the team can suddenly rediscover the form that led them to the PBA D-League title, it will be another “wait till next year” season.