UAAP: La Salle hold off currently top-seeded Fighting Maroons, 82-80, stay in the Final Four race

The DLSU Green Archers thwarted the top-seeded UP Fighting Maroons, 82-80, earlier tonight, November 20, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. 

Rookie-standout Kevin Quiambao led La Salle to victory as he scored 18 points to go with nine rebounds, aided by Mark Nonoy and CJ Austria who chipped in 15 and 10 points, respectively. Evan Nelle controlled much of the offense for the Green and White as he posted nine points and seven assists. 

In the losing effort, Zavier Lucero led the scoring for the Fighting Maroons with 15 points along with six rebounds, while Carl Tamayo had 14 points and seven rebounds. Contributing an all-around effort, James Spencer posted 12 points, six rebounds and four assists. 

Uphill battle

The Green Archers opened the match with a solid three-pointer from Ben Phillips at the 9:05 mark. This was followed by a turnover from Austria which led to a Harold Alarcon layup, 3-2. Gaining an early lead, B. Phillips found Bright Nwankwo for an easy layup with just over five minutes to play, 8-4. The Green and White maintained their early rhythm as Mike Phillips slammed a massive poster dunk over Lucero at the 3:56 mark, 10-8. The Fighting Maroons slipped in a crucial jumper from Cyril Gonzales to rattle the Taft-based team’s defense, but Nelle answered back with his own jumper— tying the game at 14-all with under two minutes remaining. Unable to recover, the Lucero-Gonzales tandem made quick work, putting UP in the lead to end the first quarter, 18-14. 

In an attempt to close the gap, La Salle managed to push in their offensive plays as Jcee Macalalag made back-to-back baskets at the 8:55 mark, 20-18. Continuing their dominance in the paint, a dunk from M. Phillips was followed by a layup from Austria, which put the Green Archers in the lead, 22-20. Austria continued to shoulder the offensive load of the team by converting consecutive layups at the 4:58 mark, 28-25. However, UP managed to get their rhythm back as Spencer scored a three-pointer that was echoed by Tamayo, who finished an and1 fastbreak layup on the other end and put them in the lead by five, 33-28. With under two minutes left in the first half, Nelle made a crucial jumper that was followed by an emphatic dunk by Nwankwo off a slick feed from Macalalag, 37-32. Second-year standout Tamayo managed to slip in a big basket, but Nelle ended the first half with a crucial stepback three-pointer, closing the first half with a six-point gap, 41-35.  

Staying composed

The second half saw the Fighting Maroons quickly go on an 8-2 run to open the third quarter and pad their lead, 49-37. Far from being satisfied with his team’s performance, DLSU head coach Derrick Pumaren called a timeout in an attempt to rally his squad together. Refusing to back down, La Salle’s defense stepped up their play to stay in the game. The tough press from the Green and White caused a ruckus in the UP camp, forcing turnovers left and right, resulting in fastbreak scores for Nonoy and B. Phillips. Now trailing by six, 49-43, the team from Taft was only being held back by their turnovers as they continued to get into the paint and score. Nonoy stepped up big in the third, swishing in three attempts from behind the arc to cut UP’s lead to five, 51-46. With four minutes left in the quarter, UP stayed ahead and banked on their made free throws and threes. It was around the same mark when DLSU picked up the pace to come back, 58-51, after a Quiambao putback and Nonoy three-pointer. The Green and White would force their way into the paint and take control of the game’s pace after Nelle scored a layup toward the end of the third quarter. The third frame ended, 63-59, with La Salle showing signs of gaining momentum. 

Going for the kill

Fresh from the break, Quiambao was noticeably more aggressive as he scored a putback and layup right off the bat, 65-63. Earl Abadam also showed up down the stretch, tying the game with a contested layup which was followed by a slick corner jumper for the lead, 67-65. Keeping his head down, Quiambao dazzled the DLSU crowd with a euro step layup that pushed the lead to three, 69-66. Despite the hot start, UP fought back at the five minute mark to tie the game with a three-pointer. The DLSU defense was top-notch in the final frame of action, highlighted by Nelle’s athletic block on Spencer. This would light a fire under the Green Archers—as hustle plays, big stops, and clutch mid-range jumpers would give the Green and White a six-point lead, 75-69. With less than one minute left in the game, Lucero and Cagulangan would hit two clutch three-pointers for their team—but the Fighting Maroons would fall short as the game ended, 82-80, in favor of the team from Taft. 

Quiambao stepped up in big fashion for the Green Archers, scoring 13 of his 18 points in the final period. He mentions his first-round struggles versus UP being a source of motivation for him, “Yung first half ko, [naka] two points lang ako. Kung baga, bumalik yung memory ng first game [ko against UP] na [puro] jitters nga and sabi ko sa sarili ko hindi pwede mangyari ulit yun.”

(In my first half, I only scored two points. The memory of my first game against UP where I was full of jitters returned and I told myself that I can’t let that happen again.)

The Gilas standout comments on his clutch performance, “Ayun nga, nagstep-up lang kami kahit lamang yung kalaban nung third quarter…Sinunod lang namin [ang] sistema ni Coach [Pumaren]…kaya nag-regroup kami nung third quarter and mabilis namin na kuha yung panalo sa defending champion.

(We stepped up in the third quarter even though our opponents were up…We just followed the system of Coach Pumaren…that’s why we were able to regroup in the third quarter and we quickly got the win versus the defending champion.)

With this win, the DLSU Green Archers see their record go up to 5-6, good enough to tie the AdU Soaring Falcons for the fourth seed. In their next matchup, they face the second-seeded NU Bulldogs at 1 pm on Wednesday, November 23, at the same venue.

The Scores: 

DLSU 82 – Quiambao 18, Nonoy 15, Austria 10, Nelle 9, M. Phillips 8, Abadam 8, B. Phillips 5, Nwankwo 5, Macalalag 4, Estacio 0, Cortez 0 

UP 80 – Lucero 15, Tamayo 14, Spencer 12, Diouf 11, Cagulangan 8, Alarcon 8, Gonzales 4, Galinato 4, Abadiano 0, Ramos 0  
Quarter Scores: 18-14, 41-35, 63-59, 82-80

Jaime de los Reyes

By Jaime de los Reyes

Tana Melgar

By Tana Melgar

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