Pushed to the limit.
The De La Salle Green Archers barely escaped the upset tomahawks swung at them by the UE Red Warriors to prevail 85-82 in overtime.
Treading precarious waters late in overtime, La Salle found their savior in Mark Nonoy, who summoned his streetball magic to whip up two high wire plays down the stretch. Winning a mad scramble for the loose ball after his own triple miss, Nonoy snatched the leather and banked home a jumper in one motion to break a 78-all tie and give the Archers the lead at 80-78 with a minute to go.
After UE’s Clint Escamis wilted under pressure and missed his two free throws in the next play with 41 seconds to go, Nonoy pulled up from deep to swish a critical triple to push his Green Archers to a seemingly more comfortable 83-78 lead with 23 ticks left.
But continuing the maddening trend the entire game, UE made a another run, this time a final four-point push in just 11 seconds to trim the once safe five-point lead to only one 83-82. It was the veteran smarts of Balti Baltazar, however, that finally sent the UE Warriors home winless with his two made free throws to seal win #7 and a solid grip on third spot.
University of the East came into the game looking for a first win with a renewed vibe and energy, and shocked the favored Taft team as they built an early 15-point lead with an insane array of triples and superb ball movement. The Red Warriors went on hot streaks from the distance that kept the surprised La Salle five at bay most of the game.
The Green Archers kept themselves in the game via the offensive boards and outhustled UE 39-12 in just offensive rebounds alone, which they turned into 36 points from second chances compared to UE’s 7 as the tall towers of Taft Avenue finished the game with 68 rebounds led by Michael Phillips’ 26 and Baltazar’s 22 boards.
After the break, UE again took control of the game, and by the end of the third quarter, UE smelled upset after taking a 48-57 lead with one quarter left to play.
As UE lived by the three, they died with the three. The moment La Salle started blitzing the UE shooters, their long balls stopped falling and UE seemed to have caved in under pressure. Their nine-point third quarter lead was erased in just four minutes after Nonoy split his charity shots to push La Salle to a 60-59 lead with six minutes left in regulation.
However, UE still found one flaw in the extended La Salle perimeter defense, the paint was always partially open to smartly executed drives. The Red Warriors made two critical plays in regulation with drop passes near the rim, including a buzzer-beater by Allan Beltran that sent the game into overtime at 69-all. And the upset seemed to be possible for the next 5 minutes, until Nonoy and Balti shut that door firmly.
Five Green Archers were in double figures led by Schonny Winston with 18 points, Kurt Lojera added 17 while Baltazar, Michael Phillips and Nonoy chipped in 14, 12 and 11 markers respectively.
The Race for Second Just Got Tighter
If La Salle escaped the upset guillotine, second-running UP did not and lost to a gritty Adamson squad. The loss snapped UP’s eight game win streak and pulled them down to an 8-2 record and just a win ahead of La Salle’s 7-3 card.
Erstwhile third running National U Bulldogs got nipped by FEU and virtually threw the lower tier teams into a virtual scrum for the last playoff slot while creating more distance between third running La Salle and the next team.
La Salle will square off with the UP Fighting Maroons on Saturday at 4:30pm hoping to tie their Diliman counterparts at second position going into the final phase of the two-round eliminations.