The Green Archers battled the heavily favored FEU Tamaraws in a tight, heart-stopping battle before falling in double overtime, 80-84 at the Araneta Coliseum today.
Like in the loss to NU, the Archers struggled early in the game, allowing the opponents to take an early lead. With their early plays, the Tamaraws served notice that they planned to take advantage of their significant size and height advantage in the frontline, scoring on a couple of 3point plays in the paint by the FEU big men Noundou and Ramos. With the La Salle offense sputtering on miscues and misses, FEU took an early 3-10 lead, widened it to 9-17 before it was cut down to 14-17 at the end of the first quarter through a pair of tryes by by Marata, as well as fgs by dela Paz and Villanueva.
In the second quarter, the Archers went to their main weapon this year – defense, holding FEU scoreless for 4 minutes while speeding up the game tempo to grab the lead, 23-17 led by baskets by Villanueva, Atkins, and Andrada. Webb also scored on a couple of his patented drives to tow the Archers to a 30-21 lead. FEU scored 8 straight points to close in, 30-29 before Atkins teamed up with Andrada on a couple of beautiful pick-and-roll plays to retake the momentum and the lead at halftime, 38-30. In a complete reversal of roles, the Archers dominated the rebounding battle, 23-16, shot better from the field at 41% against FEU’s 37%, and outscored them from the perimeter, 13-3. Villanueva led our scorers in the first half with 9 points, followed by Marata and Andrada with 7 each. Despite the fine showing, a troubling trend emerged in the first half that would take its toll later in the game – the foul shooting. In the first half, the Archers missed 7 foul shots out of the 15 awarded to them.
Coming out of the half, FEU made a determined run to catch up, 35-40 before consecutive baskets by Marata, Andrada, and Webb gave La Salle their biggest lead at 47-37. Then FEU made a charge to cut the lead to 1, 48-49, and finally tie the game at 51-all as the Archers lapsed into a few uncharacteristic errors. The Archers managed to retake the lead at 53-51 at the end of the quarter behind a pair of Webb fts.
The Archers regained their poise early in the 4th quarter, using their pressing defense and good passing plays to take another 9point lead at 64-55 with around 5 minutes to go before FEU came back with their own run. Webb scored on a secondary break and dela Paz converted a layup to lead, 68-73 with 3:45 left, but the Archers went scoreless the rest of the way to open the door for FEU to catch up. With 15 seconds left, La Salle ahead 68-66 and FEU not yet in the penalty, Yutien was fouled, followed by another foul on Simon. However, a poor inbound was intercepted by Garcia who scored on the fastbreak to tie it with 9.2 seconds. La Salle called time, and Tolentino was able to drive but missed an open layup with the ball going out of bounds, FEU possession. FEU called its last timeout, and Cervantes was able to get off a shot which missed badly. Overtime.
Webb scored first on the break to open scoring in overtime, 70-68 in what would be our last lead of the game, which FEU tied on a basket by their rookie Cruz. Unused to the pressure, the Archers were tentative in their offense in overtime and played catch up from there on. Cervantes scored to give FEU its first lead since the first half, 70-72, but Villanueva followed up a missed shot to tie the score again. Garcia scored on a tough jumper, 72-74. Archer forward Mendoza fished a foul but made only 1 free throw. The Archers regained possession with 54 seconds to go, and Tolentino was fouled on a layup with 18 seconds left. Tolentino missed the second to leave the game tied at 74-all. Second overtime.
Webb missed a long shot and committed a traveling violation to scrub our opening offensives in the second overtime. Sanga was blocked, but recovered to score, 74-76. A dela Paz pass was intercepted, and Sanga was fouled on a catch-and-shoot attempt from the 3point area by Webb. He made 2 out of 3, 74-77. Atkins eluded two Tams to score and was fouled, 76-77 but missed the bonus shot. A Noundou drive resulted in Villanueva fouling out, and Noundou made the foul shot, 76-81. As a last ditch attempt to boost the flagging offense, Coach Dindo inserted Tampus to provide some instant offense. However, Tampus missed a shot and on the next possession Garcia nailed a floater, 76-83 to all but seal the game with 1:03 left. Two free throws by Mendoza, a Tolentino layup, and a last foul shot by Noundou ended scoring at 80-84.
Great game by our fighting Archers, but at the end, it was the size and experience of the Tamaraws that enabled them to eke out the win, but not before being given a mighty scare by the young Archers. The game showed what good preparation and the fighting heart of our team can do. Despite the loss, the Green Archers can hold their heads high.
With the loss, La Salle’s record falls to 3-2. Our remaining games are against UST and Adamson, two teams which are serving notice that they will contend for the playoffs.