In a highly awaited matchup between two teams gunning for sole possession of the second spot, the DLSU Green Archers crumbled in the waning minutes and fell to the UP Fighting Maroons, 61-59, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, earlier today, April 7.
After struggling in his last few games, Evan Nelle had his best outing as a Green Archer, doing it on both ends of the court with 13 points and three steals, including two shots from three-point range. In a losing effort, Justine Baltazar still had a steady all-around contribution of 13 markers, 10 rebounds, and four assists.
Following the loss, Green Archers head coach Derrick Pumaren expressed, “I will say that we did not get the job done. We did not close out the game. We did not play [aggressively] and UP made a run on us…We could’ve done a better job defensively.”
For the Fighting Maroons, Zavier Lucero was at the center of their squad’s late comeback, recording game-highs of 21 points and 14 boards. The UP rookie also showed up on the defensive end with two steals and a block.
Both teams started off cold in the first two minutes but Baltazar was aggressive early in the match, scoring the first three points of the game from the line. The Green Archers started to build a lead with three consecutive baskets in the paint from Bright Nwankwo, Baltazar, and Nelle. However, the Fighting Maroons answered with a barrage as they hit three shots from downtown to take the lead, 11-9. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair with both teams taking over the lead. DLSU kept dominating the interior with three offensive rebounds in the quarter before ending with a deadlock at 17-all.
The second quarter started off similarly as Nelle’s midrange shot on the fastbreak remained the only field goal scored by both teams for the first few minutes. Both UP and La Salle missed open jumpshots and committed sloppy turnovers, on top of the unconventional scoring drought. However, the scoring picked up when James Spencer came up with a steal off the inbound and found CJ Cansino for a wide open three, which was the first of his back-to-back shots from beyond the arc.
UP looked to finally take control of the match but Nelle gave the Taft-based squad the momentum once again by scoring five straight points. The Fighting Maroons kept themselves in the game by being relentless on the boards, coming up with multiple offensive rebounds on the same play. The Green Archers started to pull away as they built up a 33-26 lead behind Mark Nonoy’s five quick points at the 2:48 mark. However, turnovers got in the way of the Green-and-White leading to two buckets in the paint from Carl Tamayo. As a result, the first half ended with La Salle leading, 35-32.
One after the other
After a tightly contested first half, both teams opened the third quarter with the same intensity as UP athletic forward Lucero converted a putback and a slam for the Fighting Maroons. Not letting UP take the lead, DLSU’s Evan Nelle followed it back with a three-pointer of his own and tallied his first double digit game for the Green-and-White thus far.
The third quarter rolled on with both teams going back and forth on the scoreboard as a result of steady scoring and tighter defensive schemes. At the 4:53 mark of the period, UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde was forced to call a timeout after DLSU’s Michael Phillips scored a layup over three maroon jerseys, showcasing his inside prowess yet again.
Fresh from the timeout, both teams were held scoreless for a whole minute as M. Phillips and UP bigman Maodo Diouf exchanged words, intensifying the game even more and resulted in warnings for both swingmen. Diouf followed this up with a slam but La Salle extended their lead to five, 48-43, and finished the third period strong.
DLSU started the fourth with a stable lead, with M. Phillips slamming it down at the 8:50 mark of the quarter. Following a Deschon Winston midrange make, Monteverde was forced to call a timeout yet again to slow down the Green-and-White’s rally.
But it would be UP’s Lucero who would singlehandedly turn the game around for the Fighting Maroons, capped by an emphatic dunk on Baltazar and causing Pumaren to huddle his players for a timeout. While Baltazar kept the game alive for the La Salle faithful, Lucero continued his hot scoring to give UP the lead, 57-54, with 3:44 left in the game.
The Green Archers had chances to tie the game in the final minute of the quarter. But the Green-and-White failed to score in the last possession of the game after a plethora of UP fouls, which led to M. Phillips missing a contested layup that sent the game to overtime. The game ended with UP narrowly edging La Salle, 59-61, to give them sole possession of the second place in the tournament so far.
After a major collapse in the clutch, coach Derrick Pumaren laments what went wrong with the team’s decision-making in the final moments of the game. “We became tentative when we got the seven-point lead. We were just standing around, there’s no movement, we were just waiting for the clock to expire sana.”
After La Salle succumbed to third in the standings, the Green Archers look to go back in the winning column in their final game of the first round against the Adamson Soaring Falcons on Saturday, April 9, at 1 pm at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
DLSU 59 – Baltazar 13, Nelle 13, Nonoy 9, M. Phillips 9, Winston 7, Lojera 3, Galman 3, Nwankwo 2, Austria 0, B. Phillips 0, Cuajao 0
UP 61 – Lucero 21, Tamayo 9, Cansino 9, Diouf 7, Spencer 7, Cagulangan 5, Fortea 3, Rivero 0, Alarcon 0, Abadiano 0
Quarter Scores: 17-17, 35-32, 48-43, 61-59