UAAP: Green Archers clinch Final Four slot after outlasting Soaring Falcons

Earlier today, April 28, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, the DLSU Green Archers rebounded from two straight losses with a statement victory over the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 64-51, powered by a dominant fourth quarter display and clinching a spot in the Final Four.

Deschon Winston spearheaded the offense, racking up a game-high 19 points with two steals and a block as he kept collapsing the opposing defense with his speed. On the other hand, Evan Nelle was the game’s closer, scoring nine of his 11 points in the pivotal fourth quarter, while Kurt Lojera was a consistent force with his 10-point contribution.

From the AdU side, Jerom Lastimosa—one of the league’s leading scorers—had to deal with multiple defenders all day but he and Ricky Peromingan still led their team, scoring 11 points each in a losing effort.

Grinding it out

The Green Archers aimed to hit the ground running on offense after three straight games of lackluster starts. However, it was the same story against the gutsy Soaring Falcons as ineffective sets on the attack led to wayward low-percentage shots for the Green-and-White. It went from bad to worse as leading scorer Justine Baltazar sprained his ankle and had to come out at the 6:31 mark in the first frame. As Baltazar went down, DLSU kept it close, led by the hustle of offensive rebounds from Michael Phillips and Bright Nwankwo. The Taft-based squad also played air-tight defense as they forced the team from Ermita to make errant passes, leading to five points off turnovers in the quarter. 

La Salle finally made their first field goal at the 5:50 mark of the opening quarter with a hook shot from M. Phillips, tying the game at 3-all. Then, Keith Zaldivar looked to open the floodgates for the Soaring Falcons with his three-pointer at the 3:55 mark. But the offense of DLSU finally had some slight ignition with sparks off the bench coming from Lojera and Cyrus Austria. Both teams maintained a gritty play for the rest of the quarter, which ended with Adamson just edging it out, 13-12.

Taking the lead

After a stagnant affair in the opening frame, the Green Archers were ready to push the pace and to take the lead. It was a tit-for-tat stalemate early in the quarter as the Soaring Falcons answered each of DLSU’s baskets with their own. Adamson made two three-pointers at the 6:23 mark, putting them up, 21-18.

This was the last field goal for the Soaring Falcons after Nelle spurred on the Green-and-White to go on a 7-0 run, which could be credited to the suffocating defense and fastbreak opportunities that Winston ignited. At the end of the run, the Green Archers led, 27-21. But the Adamson squad still had juice left to bring the La Salle lead by a point at the end of the first half, 27-26. With a single-point advantage, the Green Archers needed to stay hot and to maintain their effective defensive strategy to contain Adamson gunner Lastimosa.

Despite missing the veteran presence on both ends of the court, the Green-and-White still played exceptional defense due to Nwankwo and M. Phillips who clogged the paint. It was a big step up for both DLSU big men as M. Phillips had his debut start for the team, while Nwankwo filled the spot of an injured Baltazar.

Keeping up the pressure

After a tough battle in the first half, DLSU hoped to take control of the third quarter, especially with Baltazar back in the game. Winston was the catalyst early on as he scored the first seven points of the quarter, giving the Green Archers a comfortable lead, 34-26, at the 7:58 mark. Then, coming out of the timeout, the Soaring Falcons doused Winston and his solo run with back-to-back threes from Lastimosa and Peromingan to cut the deficit back down to two. DLSU answered back with timely jump shots from Lojera, but their inability to play defense without fouling led to easy points from the line for Lenda Douanga, placing Adamson back in the game. The Ermita-based squad finally erased the lead as Lastimosa drained a wide open three to end the third quarter with the two teams deadlocked at 43-all.

Pulling away

Knowing well of Adamson’s fourth quarter heroics,  DLSU needed to come up clutch in the end.  “We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We just stayed focused,” Winston remarked.

After the last quarter opened with a tie, the Green Archers then went on an 8-0 run. All cylinders were firing for the boys in green as their patented pesky defense held Adamson scoreless for a little over five minutes, 51-43.

Adamson’s Lastimosa, a well known and feared fourth quarter performer, struggled late alongside the entire Soaring Falcons flock. “Pinaghandaan namin siya,” Nelle expressed, which was evident after DLSU held Lastimosa to only one scored field goal in the final frame. 

(We prepared for this match up.)

On the greener side, also showing up in the last quarter of the game was veteran Baltazar who made his first field goals late into the game following his early first quarter departure. 

The Soaring Falcons showed signs of life later in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late. The DLSU Green Archers eventually came out on top, 64-51. It was not only another game in the win column for the Taft-based squad after back-to-back losses, but also an assurance of a Final Four slot this season—the team’s first since UAAP Season 80 in 2017. 

The Green-and-White’s next game will be against the NU Bulldogs on Sunday, May 1, at 4:30 pm at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.  

The Scores: 

DLSU 64 – Winston 19, Nelle 11, Lojera 10, Austria 6, Baltazar 6, M. Phillips 4, Nwankwo 4, Manuel 2, B. Phillips 2, Nonoy 0.

AdU 51 – Lastimosa 11, Peromingan 11, Sabandal 8, Zaldivar 7, Douanga 6, Manzano 4, Hanapi 4, Magbuhos 0, Colonia 0, Yerro 0, Barasi 0, Fuentebella 0, Maata 0, Jaymalin 0. 

Quarter Scores: 12-13, 27-26, 43-43, 64-51

By Aren Reyes

By Jaime de los Reyes

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