The premise for the De La Salle Green Archers was clear: win, and advance outright to the Final Four; lose, and things get a little complicated as entering the post-season won’t completely be on their own hands.
Facing a hungry UP Fighting Maroons squad that wasn’t only trying to sweep La Salle this Season 81 but also end a 21-year Final Four drought, the Taft-based squad couldn’t overcome a 23-point halftime deficit and eventually lose the game, 97-81.
Despite giving-up five three-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the game, the Green Archers were still within fighting distance courtesy of eight points from spit-fire guard Aljun Melecio. With La Salle trailing 17-25 at the start of the second quarter, UP made things worse for DLSU as a lay-up by Javi Gomez de Liaño with 1:45 to go capped off a 23-11 run that blew the game wide open in favor of UP, 28-48.
Two quick baskets from Balti Baltazar seemed to give some semblance of life to the Green Archers but a quick seven-point response from UP quickly snuffed out any plans of a La Salle comeback and established the game’s biggest lead, 33-59, in favor of the Fighting Maroons.
The prospect of Lasallians having to cheer for the Adamson Soaring Falcons during their game on Sunday against the FEU Tamaraws became more and more clear after UP established a 75-54 lead after the third quarter and maintained comfortable leads during the entire fourth frame.
UP thus sweeps the season series after scoring a 67-61 win during the first round of competitions.
Like a team on a mission, UP burned La Salle with their outside shooting (12/27 from the three-point area) against only 6/22 makes for the Green and White squad. UP’s bench, led by the Gomez de Liaño brothers (46 combined points) also torched the La Salle reserves as the younger Juan alone outscored the entire DLSU bench, 27-26.
La Salle was led by Baltazar’s 22 points and seven rebounds. Melecio added 19 points for DLSU’s cause while Andrei Caracut was the only other player in double figures with 12.
The Archers simply could not match the Fighting Maroons’ combined intensity and outside shooting to fall to 8-6 and fourth place in the league standings. Sunday’s 62-71 loss to Ateneo coupled with today’s setback means that the Green and White community will hope that Adamson defeats FEU on Sunday to enter the Final Four outright.
An FEU win results in a third meeting between the Green Archers and Tamaraws this season, with the winner booking the last ticket to the Final Four.
DLSU 81 – Baltazar 22, Melecio 19, Caracut 12, Samuel 8, Santillan 6, Montalbo 5, Serrano 5, Bates 2, Manuel 2, Dyke 0
UP 97 – Ju. Gomez de Liaño 27, Ja. Gomez de Liaño 19, Akhuetie 16, Desiderio 10, Manzo 6, Dario 5, Jaboneta 5, Tungcab 3, Gozum 2, Lim 2, Prado 2, Murrell 0, Vito 0
Quarter scores: 17-25, 29-52, 54-75, 81-97.