The DLSU Green Archers were successful in taking down the Mapua University Cardinals, 102-95, yesterday in a FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup game held at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. With the win, La Salle clinches a spot in the quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive year.
“Actually, coming into the game, nakita ko pareho kami fighting for the last spot to get to the quarterfinals,” head coach Louie Gonzales explained, as he revealed that he hid this from his players. Despite that, the head coach confidently beamed that he continued to challenge his players to gun for consistency.
Aljun Melecio led the Green Archers after posting 25 points and four assists in the victory. Taane Samuel scored 22 points off the La Salle bench and added eight rebounds, while Santi Santillan and Justine Baltazar were the only other DLSU players who scored in double figures, finishing with 13 and 11 points, respectively, and 12 rebounds each.
In the losing effort of the Cardinals, Exerjel Biteng was dominant on both ends of the court, recording 34 points, while Cedric Pelayo also chipped in with 17 points.
Frenetic first half
Biteng opened the game with a jumper to give Mapua its first two points. Afterwards, as early as the 9:22 mark, Cardinals Christian Bunag and Lawrence Victoria combined for a jump shot and layup, respectively. Despite the efforts of the Lasallians, Mapua came out of the gate as the more aggressive team as they went on a 12-4 run within the first five minutes of the first period. Biteng and Eric Jabel combined for back-to-back jumpers for the Cardinals. Noah Lugo also added in four points for Mapua as he consecutively converted free throws and a jumper, concluding the first quarter with its biggest lead of the game at 30-16.
The Green Archers’ tenacity on defense started early in the second frame, leading to numerous transition baskets, consisting of consecutive converted shots from the efforts of Baltazar, Samuel, Melecio, and Donn Lim. Although, at the 6:29 mark, Victoria and Biteng put a stop to La Salle’s run as they converted free throws, a lay-up and a three-point jumper, respectively. Caracut provided the spark the team needed with a three-point jumper as Baltazar followed up with his own three-point jumper for the Green-and-White. In the closing moments of the second period, Mark Dyke and Jollo Go continued to score through a putback and a three-point jumper to trim Mapua’s lead to 47-43.
La Salle takes over
The Green Archers continued to hustle as Go made another three-pointer within a minute of the start of the third quarter. Mapua continued to attack the paint and managed to produce points from the efforts of Biteng, Pelayo, and Lugo, while Bonifacio successfully converted baskets to keep La Salle at bay. Biteng helped keep Mapua ahead by a comfortable margin entering the third quarter, but La Salle went on a 16-4 run that tied the game at 65-all with two minutes left before the end of the third period. The Cardinals narrowly led La Salle at the end of the third quarter, 69-68.
The final frame began with both teams looking to outrun the other. La Salle’s Santillan and Mapua’s Pelayo continuously traded baskets throughout the period, scoring off of putbacks and layups, respectively. Both teams then shuffled their players, but the lead and momentum remained with the Green-and-White. DLSU continued to prove its resilience at the free throw line as Samuel successfully converted baskets recording six points for the team. With 1:35 remaining in the final frame, Melecio widened the lead for DLSU by converting three-point jumpers. In the end, the Green Archers were steadfast, as Samuel and Santillan’s successful free throws sealed the score at 102-95.
After the game, Gonzales commended his players’ consistency and unity as a crucial aspect of La Salle’s run in the third quarter. “I’m pretty sure that if we always play as a team, magiging maganda palagi yung result. We were down by a big deficit but whenever they come together, kapag ginagawa nila yung tama, which we say is doing the right thing. I say that sometimes doing the right thing is not easy but you have to do that,” concluded Gonzales.
The Green Archers will return to the FilOil Flying V Arena when they take on the San Beda Red Lions on Monday, June 4, at 6:30 pm.
DLSU 102 – Melecio 25, Samuel 22, Santillan 13, Baltazar 11, Dyke 8, Go 8, Caracut 5, Lim 4, Corteza 2, Capacio 2, Tolentino 2, Manaytay 0, Bates 0
MU 95 – Biteng 34, Pelayo 17, Victoria 11, Lugo 9, Bonifacio 8, Serrano 4, Bunag 4, Jabel 4, Pajarillo 2, Aguirre 1, Nocum 1, Gamboa 0
Quarter scores: 16-30, 43-47, 68-69, 102-95