The DLSU Green Archers failed to better last year’s second place finish as the Taft-based squad fell to the FEU Tamaraws in the quarterfinal round of the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup. La Salle entered the playoffs after finishing the elimination round with a record of seven wins and two loses in Group A.
Archrivals ADMU Blue Eagles went on an unbeaten run enroute to the championship but one Green Archer was given an award even though the team’s title run ended prematurely. Justine Baltazar joined SBU Red Lion Javee Mocon, and ADMU’s trio of Matt Nieto, Thirdy Ravena. and Angelo Kouame in the tournament’s Mythical Five.
The Green-and-White opened their preseason with a tight win over the new and improved UP Fighting Maroons, 82-79. La Salle led by 11 points in the last four minutes of the match but Paul Desiderio and Juan Gomez De Liaño spearheaded the comeback for UP to trim the deficit to two points. DLSU eventually held on as Gomez De Liaño missed a crucial three-pointer towards the end of the game. Baltazar was named best player after posting 16 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
After a close contest against the Fighting Maroons, the Green Archers had a 19-point drubbing of the Gilas Pilipinas-Cadet Team in their next game. La Salle recorded a 91-72 victory over the Gilas Cadets as Kib Montalbo played a scintillating game against former teammates Abu Tratter and the Rivero brothers, Prince and Ricci. The fiery guard led the Green-and-White with 25 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and five steals.
La Salle would eventually continue their winning streak with a 96-83 triumph over the Perpetual Help Altas in their third game of the preseason tournament. The Green Archers followed it up with a lopsided win over the EAC Generals, 83-51.
In their fifth game, the Green-and-White recorded another victory by beating the UE Red Warriors, 71-62. The streak continued in their sixth game wherein the Lasallians defeated the Mapua Cardinals, 102-95, with Aljun Melecio, Taane Samuel, Santi Santillan, and Baltazar combining for 71 points.
The Green Archers’ winning streak ended on June 4 after succumbing to the SBU Red Lions, 72-70. Javee Mocon led the NCAA Season 93 champions with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
A few days after losing to the Red Lions, the Green-and-White quickly bounced back with a 73-66 win over the NU Bulldogs. Baltazar led the Green Archers in scoring once again as he recorded 19 points to improve his team’s standing to seven wins and one loss.
DLSU absorbed their second loss of the tournament as they fell short against archrivals ADMU Blue Eagles in overtime, 81-75. The Katipunan-based squad held a 70-66 lead with 23.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter but Jollo Go sneaked in for a lay-up to send the game to overtime. In the extra period, Angelo Kouame took over and scored three lay-ups and a hook shot to keep Ateneo’s unblemished record intact heading to the playoffs.
La Salle suffered an early exit in this year’s FilOil tournament after losing to the FEU Tamaraws, 76-69, in the first game of the playoffs. Former Blue Eagle Hubert Cani top-scored for the Tamaraws with 22 points while Arvin Tolentino, another former Blue Eagle, contributed 10 points to boot out La Salle. The former waxed hot in the fourth quarter as he scored 11 of his team’s last 13 points.
Andrei Caracut led the Green Archers with 15 points, while Baltazar added 14 points in a losing effort. It was a disappointing finish for the Green-and-White after winning the title two years ago and finishing second last year.
Despite falling short of reaching the finals this year, the team can use their experience in this season’s FilOil tournament to boost its chemistry and increase its familiarity with the tactics of Coach Louie Gonzales.
Gonzales has done a superb job so far as he added a few tweaks in the offensive playbook of the Green Archers. In the previous regime, the offense will usually start from the defensive end due to the Mayhem System implemented by Ayo but now, the team is more flexible by implementing half court plays that start in the post.
Sliding Santillan to the small forward position has been a masterstroke for Gonzales as it allows him to play Baltazar and Samuel together on the court. It rarely happened last year as Ayo opted to implement a smaller line-up to maximize the Mayhem System.
Aside from adjusting to the new system and integrating the recent additions to the team, the Green Archers will hope to avoid major injuries heading into the UAAP Season 81. Montalbo missed a huge chunk of games due to a surgery to remove the bone spurs in his right ankle while Caracut and Santillan sat out at least one game each to recuperate from their respective injuries.