With just one game remaining in the first round against the NU Bulldogs, the DLSU Green Archers find themselves with a 3-3 win-loss card and in a quadruple tie with the Bulldogs, the UE Red Warriors and their latest victim, the AdU Soaring Falcons, for third place.
A so-so season so far for the Green Archers could have easily been an astounding 6-0 start, something that the FEU Tamaraws have achieved this season. The three loses of DLSU, against the UST Growling Tigers, FEU and UE, could have all gone either way, and the Green Archers almost succumbed to Adamson after losing another big lead. The perennial Achilles’ Heel of the team, free throws, played a major part in their defeats as well and the team currently shoots an average of 58.6.
Forward Jeron Teng acknowledged the team’s shortcomings and shares, “In the past few games, we’ve been collapsing in the end. We still have to work on that.”
The Green Archers started out the season on a sour note, falling behind early on against UST before rallying to force overtime behind rookie Jason Perkins. The Green Archers eventually lost in overtime, 63-58, after being outclassed in the extra period by UST star Jeric Teng.
The next two losses though to FEU and UE, which came after an inspiring victory against the ADMU Blue Eagles, were even more heartbreaking. The Green Archers led by 12 with a minute and 48 seconds remaining in the game before Terrence Romeo tore apart the DLSU defense to force overtime and snatch an 83-79 win. The next weekend, La Salle looked to bounce back against UE, and looked well on its way to a win before another endgame collapse. The Green-and-White led by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter and led by two with less than a minute left to play before they surrendered the lead to UE after Ralf Olivares hit a three-pointer with 42.3 seconds left in the game which led to a 85-83 win.
Carrying the burden of a two game losing streak that could have easily been a four game winning run instead, La Salle started off its next game against Adamson focused, racing to a 26-10 advantage in the first half. In the fourth period, the Green Archers led by 17 with six minutes and 43 seconds left to play, before allowing Adamson to tie the game at 65 with a minute and 24 seconds remaining. Teng stepped up from the free throw line though when the team needed him most and broke the tie with two conversions which helped the Green Archers end their losing run with a 70-67 win.
“We’ve all been practicing our free throws really hard. With the help of coach Allan (Caidic), naka-focus talaga siya on improving our free throws,” says Teng, who made all four of his free throws for the game to highlight the team’s 81.8 percent shooting for the game.
The Green Archers have raced out to big leads though over their past three games, showing that the manpower and talent to win is definitely there. Sauler shares, “That’s how we’ve been playing in the last three games and it started with FEU. I think it’s more important that we have a stronger finish.”
“The problem is the end game, we commit mistakes in the last quarter which we didn’t make in the first three. It’s not really mental. We just have to learn how to play for 40 minutes; [We have to] learn how to play for four quarters,” shares La Salle’s mentor on the trend of losing substantial leads in the fourth quarter over the past three games.
The stoic Sauler adds, “We played good for the first three quarters, but in the end, we turned the ball over, we gave second chance opportunities to the opponents so that’s something we have to clean up.”
With the final match of the first round against NU right around the corner, La Salle will be challenged once again to snap out of their bad habit. “More important than the winning note, it’s how we close out the game. It’s a cliche but we focus on one game at a time, first round, second round. More importantly, we need to close out the game with NU,” concludes Sauler.