So much for the first round encounter between the UAAP’s top two men’s basketball teams. After DLSU led 49-34 at intermission, much of the highlights and attention after halftime were focused on the sidelines and events that happened when the game clock was not ticking: new coach Aldin Ayo’s brotherly-hug to Abu Tratter during a timeout in the third frame and former Green Archers and current Adamson tactician Franz Pumaren proudly singing the Alma Mater song after the game.
Despite his Falcons experiencing a 91-75 beatdown, coach Franz was his usual post-game self, firing the first shot and starting the mental war games by saying that he did not think that La Salle did anything special, and that the Green Archers just caught their San Marcellino counterparts on a bad day.
Pumaren’s silver-lining for his team: forcing the Green Archers to cough-up 26 turnovers hardly sounds like a moral victory for the 3-2 Falcons. In the four previous victories by DLSU, the team was averaging 24.0 errors a game, and as a matter of fact, had hardly affected the team’s pace, momentum, and most importantly, the perfect record so far.
The Green and White squad might have lost the turnover battle, 26-22, but completely dominated the other facets of the game: winning the battle of the boards, 54-32 (including 23 offensive rebounds) and allowing the Falcons to make only a third of their field goal attempts (22/66).
Unlike the Archers’ previous two wins against UST and FEU when they pulled away in the latter half of the game, DLSU ensured win no. 5 before halftime by outscoring Adamson 27-17 in the second period. ‘Big’ Ben Mbala already tallied a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double at that point, while easily controlling his match-up against the Falcons’ import Papi Sarr.
Mbala went on to finish with 21 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, and four steals; leading four other players in double figures as Jeron Teng had 15, rookie Aljun Melecio with a career-high 13 points, Kib Montalbo with 12, and Thomas Torres tallying 11.
Did you feel weird too?
Having spent my collegiate days knowing only one DLSU head coach in Franz Pumaren, sound bits like what he dropped are not surprising at all; with his then mustached-look and quick wit, media sessions with five-time UAAP champion coach, all for La Salle, were always entertaining.
Like most Lasallians who studied and witnessed the four-peat years between 1998-2001, the forfeited title during 2004, and the redemption year of 2007, it still feels weird knowing that coach Franz is on the other side of fence.
Ditto for Adamson assistant coach and DLSU legend Renren Ritualo, as I can still remember the day when school officials retired the former shooting guard’s jersey no. 4; one of only three basketball players to have earned and received the distinction. It will take a few more games, and probably seasons, before I can get that weird feeling out of me whenever the Green Archers battle coach Franz and his Adamson Falcons.
One Pumaren down, another one to go
Ayo’s demeanor and stoic look, save for the Tratter bro-hug and subsequent wide grin, is almost on the complete end of the spectrum of coach Franz. The calm, quiet presence hides his mayhem mentality and penchant for taking a high-risk, high-reward approach to the game. His ohana (family) and no-one-left-behind approach speaks highly of why our players will figuratively die to get him the ball, and why Ayo is slowly but surely becoming one of La Salle’s beloved head coaches.
After coach Franz, DLSU faces another familiar face in UE head coach Derrick Pumaren and the UE Red Warriors on September 28 at the Mall of Asia Arena. Despite the Red Warriors’ winless record, its best that the team keeps its defense sharp to prevent any chance of upset.
Animo La Salle!