Coming straight out of high school and immediately becoming an established member of La Salle’s rotation, Aljun Melecio has been able to rise up when things mattered most for the DLSU Green Archers. As a De La Salle-Zobel Junior Archer, Melecio was the team’s primary playmaker and scorer. At DLSU, however, the rookie found himself in contention for playing time in head coach Aldin Ayo’s highly-talented squad.
“Gusto ko lang talaga mag improve and maadjust ko yung pano college level, para the following years maka contribute na ako,” said Melecio humbly in a previous interview with The LaSallian earlier in the season.
He has been able to hold his own and has been the team’s spark plug coming off the bench. Melecio concluded the elimination round averaging 8.4 points on 37 percent field goal shooting in 17.6 minutes per game. The point guard finished as the team’s leading scorer only behind team captain Jeron Teng and Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala. As a result from his performance, he is also set to be named Season 79’s Rookie of the Year. AdU’s Jerrick Ahanmisi had more statistical points than Melecio, but was declared ineligible for the award due to having taken a gap year after high school.
Yesterday, in their first meeting of the best-of-three finals series versus the ADMU Blue Eagles, Melecio provided timely three-pointers to propel the Green Archers to victory. After overcoming a slow start, the Blue Eagles fought toe-to-toe with La Salle and seemed to take full control of the game. With 4:40 remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter, however, Melecio silenced the ADMU crowd with a cold-blooded three-pointer from the left elbow over high school rival Thirdy Ravena. The shot provided La Salle a much needed four-point cushion, 63-59. Whether it be running off screens or rattling his defenders off the dribble, the point guard showed much composure. The Green-and-White managed to hold on, as timely baskets and defensive stops from Teng and Kib Montalbo gave the team from Taft a 67-65 victory.
His performance in the finals is nothing new, as he has been able to lift the Green Archers on multiple occasions, particularly in the latter stages of the elimination round. As DLSU trailed the NU Bulldogs early on in their second-round encounter, Melecio swung momentum in their favor with a three-pointer from the wing to beat the first quarter buzzer. He gave his team its first lead of the game, 24-23. He went on to team up with fellow rookie Ricci Rivero to lead a 10-2 scoring run, as they eventually crushed the Bulldogs, 113-88.
In La Salle’s final game of the eliminations, the FEU Tamaraws seemed set to deal the Green Archers their second consecutive loss of the season. At the crucial stages of the game, Melecio delivered once again with a crucial three-point shot. His efforts eventually ignited a 9-0 scoring run, as DLSU took home a 73-67 victory and were then set to enter the Final Four with a 13-1 win-loss standing.
The Green Archers are one victory away from winning the elusive UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship. It will not only take Mbala and Teng to end the Green-and-White’s dream run on a high note, but also the support of a calm and composed freshman. La Salle will take on the Blue Eagles in their second finals matchup on Wednesday, December 7, at 3:30 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.