Who would have thought that the DLSU Green Archers, after losing four out of seven games in the first round of the eliminations, would have a chance to sweep the second round?
A win against the tough UST Growling Tigers on Saturday will be their seventh consecutive victory and it will complete the elusive sweep. The crucial win would also propel them to the top of the UAAP Season 76 standings at 10-4, together with the two current league-leaders, the heavily favored NU Bulldogs, and the FEU Tamaraws who swept the first round .
It seems as if there was a role reversal with the offensive powerhouse FEU as the Morayta-based crew swept the first round but had four defeats in the second round, while DLSU had four defeats in the first round and now have a chance to sweep the second round with a triumph against UST. After a mediocre start to the season, it seemed as if La Salle was headed towards a disappointing finish to the season, but they turned their play a notch higher after the two-week long FIBA hiatus and are still undefeated in the second round. The Green Archers are now turning heads as legitimate contenders for this season’s much sought after basketball crown.
This being their last game of the eliminations, the only team standing between the Green Archers and a second round sweep are the Growling Tigers, who are as dangerous as ever as they are fighting for the last available spot in the Final Four. Despite an assured spot in the Final Four, the Green Archers are also treating this game as a must-win as they vie for a share of the top spot and a twice-to-beat advantage for the semifinals.
First round encounter
Having only two weeks to prepare for the season with the newly appointed Sauler, the Green Archers still put up a valiant fight against an established UST squad on opening day. Five-year veteran Jeric Teng was the story of the game as he torched the green side with 23 points and powerful center Karim Abdul chipped in for UST’s winning cause with 17 points.
DLSU who unveiled four rookies in that day, led by rookie Jason Perkins who had 13 points to lead the team. Streaky-shooter Almond Vosotros also had 13 points in the loss. Perkins marveled fans who were captivated by his skills and potential. His mid-range jumper to tie it at 51 forced the game into overtime as the rookie was excellent on the court and did not seem to be affected by opening day jitters.
Overtime proved to be a different contest as Abdul and the lanky Aljon Mariano stole the show as they scored the first five points in overtime then put the game away with crucial free throws to grab the win for UST.
Peaking at the right time
The players to watch out for this prime time match will be Vosotros, who should bounce back after scoring just two points in their last match against NU. Perkins is expected to continue his strong second round play and of course, the mini-story that always arises in a DLSU-UST game is the head-to-head matchup between the Teng brothers, La Salle’s Jeron and UST’s Jeric.
Aside from their stars, even role players from Sauler’s bench have been clicking as of late, from the defense and maturity of Kib Montalbo and Gab Reyes to the sweet shooting of Luigi de la Paz and Matt Salem. Sauler seems to have a wide array of options at his disposal as the bench lifts the team into a whole new dimension because of their unpredictability.
Final Four scenarios
The battle for the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four round will be tougher now that both NU and FEU have an identical 10-4 record. Multiple scenarios can arise depending on the outcome of the crucial last game of DLSU. With quotients being taken into consideration to break the tie between the Tamaraws and Bulldogs, NU and defending two-time UAAP MVP Bobby Ray Parks are assured of a twice-to-beat advantage regardless of the outcome of the La Salle-UST game.
A DLSU win will give rise to a playoff game between DLSU and FEU for the twice-to-beat advantage and possession of second place. The two will be tied for second place thus having to duke it out in virtually a best-of-three series as they will lock horns in the semifinals as well after the playoff.
A DLSU loss will shatter their chances of gaining the coveted advantage. DLSU will fall to a 9-5 record and will either be at third or fourth place depending on the outcome of UST’s battle against the ADMU Blue Eagles on September 16.
Regardless of what is at stake in the DLSU-UST game, Sauler brushes it aside and only thinks about the game at hand. “We’re not really looking for the top two. We’re just making sure we do good in the last two games. If we win, and we make whatever it is what we make then we make it, if not then thats how it goes,” shard the DLSU mentor.
One thing’s for sure, last game or not, twice-to-beat or not, DLSU will play with all of its heart and will give its all each time its players don a green-and-white jersey. The stakes get higher each game, as a twice-to-beat advantage is within reach for the first time in years.