The sharp arrows of the De La Salle Green Archers ruled the skies and the Blue Eagles of Ateneo were denied of any chance to fly as the Taft boys survived their gritty Katipunan arch-rivals to finish the eliminations with a gripping 72-69 win and an 11-3 card.
Evan Nelle, fueled by the urgency of his final rivalry encounter, etched his mark with a sublime one-legged runner, the dagger of a shot that pierced through the Eagle’s heart. Teaming up with the ever-reliable Motor Mike Phillips, a late 4-0 surge in the game’s waning minutes transformed a tense 66-65 nail-biter into a more secure 70-65 advantage, merely 40 seconds before the buzzer.
Phillips, reminiscent of his pogo-stick self in Season 85, seized the skies, snatching 10 crucial boards in the latter half, stabilizing the Archers’ offensive tempo. His 10-point, 14-rebound spectacle came to life when it mattered most – the critical moments that often define such high-stakes encounters.
Yet, control was a fleeting notion throughout this electrifying match. La Salle appeared to seize command, holding a ten-point cushion at 48-38 in the third, only to witness Ateneo claw back, whittling the deficit to a slim five by the quarter’s end.
It wasn’t until the six-minute mark in the final quarter that the Archers managed a semblance of separation, scripting a crucial 6-0 surge fueled by consecutive triples from Joshua David and Nelle, edging ahead 64-58.
However, the defending champions, unwavering in their resolve, refused to yield. Ateneo orchestrated a gutsy 7-0 retaliation, orchestrated through the precision of their import, Joseph Obasa, menacingly closing the gap to a nerve-wracking 66-65 with mere minutes remaining.
The ANIMO spirit surged mightier than any chorus of rallying cheers. Ateneo faltered on an inbound play, while Jared Brown’s typically lethal triples failed to find their mark. Meanwhile, Nelle and Phillips orchestrated a game-saving 4-0 streak, stretching the lead to 70-65, effectively sealing an eighth consecutive triumph for the Green Archers via an emphatic sweep of the second round.
With unmatching suspense, La Salle now anticipates the outcome of the UP-NU duel on Sunday, November 19, 2023, awaiting their next chapter in this riveting Season 86 basketball saga.
ANIMO LA SALLE!