UAAP: Green Archers tame Bulldogs, stomp on NU’s Final Four hopes

The Green Archers forged a win against the NU Bulldogs, 76-65, earlier today, May 1, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. The Taft-based squad now holds a 9-5 win-loss record, cementing their well-earned spot in the Final Four.

In the absence of Deschon Winston and Justine Baltazar, veteran forward Joaqui Manuel stepped up by scoring 20 points and hitting four three-pointers. Michael Phllips was given a heavier offensive workload today and stepped up to the challenge, putting up 15 points and pulling down 15 boards. Kurt Lojera also proved to be a solid piece off the bench, scoring 11 markers, including two clutch baskets late in the fourth quarter.

Playmaker Evan Nelle controlled the pace for a La Salle offense despite lacking two major figures. He finished the game with seven points, an impressive 11 assists, and only two turnovers.

In a heartbreaking loss, John Figueroa clawed NU way back in the second half, tallying 20 points, 14 rebounds, and six steals. Michael Malonzo, who was a solid source of production for the Bulldogs this season, contributed 13 points and seven rebounds.

Slow but steady start

Many fans may have underestimated this matchup as it was a non-bearing game for the Green-and-White after the squad already secured a spot in the Final Four. For good measure, it was a great opportunity for other players to show what they have to offer. 

DLSU started strong with Nelle and B. Phillips draining back-to-back three-pointers. On the other hand, Figueroa gave NU’s first field goal to cut DLSU’s lead, 6-5, at the 4:54 mark. 

Both teams exchanged baskets early in the first quarter, showcasing fast-paced offensive runs. . Lojera proved to be a steady presence off the bench as he gave the lead back to DLSU until Jonas Tibayan racked up for two, resulting in a 10-10 deadlock at the 2:22 mark. The first quarter ended with Deo Cuajao’s three-point shot, giving the Green Archers  a four-point lead, 15-11.

Taking advantage

In a must-win game for the NU Bulldogs, they showed great heart by snatching offensive rebounds which gave difficulties for the Green Archers. NU was eager to get the score close, and Malonzo tied the score,17-17. Answering for the Green Archers was Ralph Cu, who finally drained his first three-pointer of the season, allowing DLSU to reclaim the lead, 20-18.

Manuel showcased his versatile offensive prowess by scoring three consecutive times with around four minutes left in the first half to secure a 10-point lead for the Green-and-White. At the same time, the NU Bulldogs struggled to find an opening as DLSU built up an unassailable lead, 30-23, followed by a three-pointer from Nelle and a strong jam by M. Phillips. The first half ended with a tough bucket by B. Philipps that made way for the Green Archers, 37-25.

Bulldogs bite back

After a dominant showing in the second quarter, the Green Archers remained in control in the third period—moving the ball and getting easy looks in transition—which allowed the Green-and-White to build a comfortable lead early on. 

Manuel was a marked man, but he still managed to open the scoring after being fouled on a three-point attempt, 40-26. Floor general Nelle effectively controlled the tempo of the game, finding his teammates and keeping the opposition on their toes. In his return to the starting lineup, CJ Austria found an open lane to the basket to give the Green Archers their biggest lead of the game at 44-29 with seven minutes to go.

With their Final Four hopes on the line, the Bulldogs refused to back down. Led by Figueroa, they chipped into the deficit, cutting DLSU’s lead to nine, 47-38. DLSU head coach Derrick Pumaren and his team tried to regain their momentum coming out of a timeout halfway into the period. However, they struggled to contain NU in the open floor and saw their advantage dwindle. At the end of the quarter, their lead was reduced to six points at 54-48 with less than a minute remaining.

Icing the game

Entering the final period, the team from Sampaloc kept their foot on the gas. Figueroa was determined to keep his team in the game by opening the scoring with two at the line. The brave Bulldogs brought the lead down to as little as two, but DLSU controlled the pace of the game in their favor—much in part to a pair of threes by the red-hot Manuel and unselfish guard Nelle.

Manuel recognized that floor general Nelle played a crucial role in his breakthrough performance, “You gotta give it to Evan and the team. I think Evan knew that I was hot and he told me [to] just shoot it and you know it went in. It was a good day today.”

With less than three minutes left in the contest, Lojera glided to the rim to wrap up a 9-2 run and to bring the lead back to double digits, 67-56. NU head coach Jeff Napa called a timeout after the game started to slip away with a few minutes to go.

Any doubts of a La Salle victory were extinguished by M. Phillips, who followed up a stifling putback basket with a breakaway dunk to increase DLSU’s advantage to 12, 72-60.

NU played their hearts out for the sake of their season, but it proved to be too little, too late. After a hard fought match, it was the Green Archers who walked away with the victory, 76-65, and eliminating the Bulldogs from UAAP Season 84.

Manuel recognized that floor general Nelle played a crucial role in his breakthrough performance, “You gotta give it to Evan and the team. I think Evan knew that I was hot and he told me [to] just shoot it and you know it went in. It was a good day today.”

Pumaren gave credit to their opposition, whose 2-2-1 zone press gave DLSU problems in the second half, saying, “We expected that NU [would] be back in the second half because they were fighting for their life. It is our job to be able to [counter] that kapag bumalik yung NU.”

The team from Taft’s next opponent which will be decided by the result of the matchup between the first-seeded ADMU Blue Eagles and second-seeded UP Fighting Maroons later tonight. 

Should the Blue Eagles remain undefeated, the Green Archers would look to avenge their second round loss to FEU in a step-ladder format. In the scenario that UP snaps ADMU’s historical winning streak, they would face DLSU with a twice-to-beat advantage as the second seed. 

The Scores:

DLSU 76 –  Manuel 20, M. Phillips 15, Lojera 11, Nelle 7, B. Phillips 7, Nonoy 5, Cu 3, Nwankwo 3, Cuajao 3, Austria 2.

NU 65 – Figueroa 20, Malonzo 13, Enriquez 6, Mahinay 6, Torres 5, Tibayan 4, Yu 3, Felicilda 2,  Joson 2, Manansala 2, Gaye 2, Minerva 0, Galinato 0, Clemente 0, Ildefonso 0.

Quarter Scores: 15-11, 37-25, 54-48, 76-65

By Diego Manzano

By Ysa Bakabak

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