In another nail-biting contest, the DLSU Green Archers managed to seize control and exact revenge for their first-round loss as they outlasted the top-ranked UP Fighting Maroons, 88-79, earlier tonight, November 5, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Two-way threat Kevin Quiambao cemented his already solid case for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors by producing a dominating double-double performance with 22 points and 12 boards, along with three steals. The returning Michael Phillips also produced his own double-double performance with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Evan Nelle chipped in 17 points and six dimes.
The Diliman-based squad was bannered by fiery winger CJ Cansino who gathered 20 points and five rebounds. He was backed up by lightning-quick guard Janjan Felicilda who contributed 13 points and nine rebounds.
Late quarter run
Compared to their previous meeting in the first round of the tournament, the rematch between the two powerhouse teams introduced a new storyline. This time around, it was the Fighting Maroons who were missing key members JD Cagulangan and Malick Diouf, while the squad from Taft had the benefit of having floor general Evan Nelle.
The Green Archers were experimental to start the game, attempting different defensive schemes as they switched from varying zone defenses to full-court man-to-man coverage. It was a back-and-forth offensive affair early on, but the Fighting Maroons’ impressive interior and transition defense slowed down their opponents’ pace to keep DLSU’s lead only at 10-6. At the midway point of the quarter, UP rookie Francis Lopez equaled the score at 10-all with a baseline jumper—sending the game to a TV timeout in a low-scoring bout.
Coming off a career night in their previous game, rising UP guard Gerry Abadiano made back-to-back perimeter jumpers at the 2:56 mark of the frame to put his team up 14-12. The Green Archers, however, gained much-needed firepower on both ends with the return of M. Phillips to the lineup. He displayed defensive tenacity and hustle for offensive boards, which helped spark a solid 10-0 run for La Salle and grant them an eight-point lead to end the opening quarter, 22-14.
In the second frame, the team from Taft was able to set and increase the game’s tempo, working to their advantage as they started to unleash their offensive prowess. The Fighting Maroons’ slow rotations on defense opened up scoring opportunities for the Green Archers outside the paint, which allowed spitfire guard Mark Nonoy to capitalize on their momentum by cashing in a corner three-pointer, 25-16. The Diliman-based squad slowly chipped away at La Salle by drawing fouls and getting trips to the charity stripe. This put DLSU in the penalty with 6:07 on the clock, as two free throws from Alarcon cut their deficit to two, 27-25.
A crucial three-pointer from Jonnel Policarpio at the 3:15 mark put DLSU in the lead 41-32, which gave them an advantageous lead in the second frame. Despite Lopez’s heroic efforts on defense as he skied in for two highlight blocks, the Fighting Maroons collapsed under the immense pressure of La Salle. This was coupled by UP Team Captain Cansino’s sloppy showing in the first half, as he committed a turnover and a forced three to end the quarter in favor of the Green Archers, 51-39.
Digging in deep
Following M. Phillips’ lay-in to open the second-half scoring, the UP Fighting Maroons managed to carve out a run and reduce La Salle’s lead to nine as Cansino chipped in a three-pointer, 55-46. Taking over the lead guard spot, Felicilda ran the floor for UP to bring the side from Diliman, 59-53, scoring a crucial and-one breakaway layup over Manuel. Desperately attempting to fend off the top seed, a three from Escandor was followed by back-to-back layups by Policarpio. The rookies continued their breakout plays, which allowed the Green and White to end the third period with a comfortable lead, 69-57, but were just as quickly outscored by five points during the frame.
Policarpio picked up from where he left off to open the final quarter of the match by slicing the defense for a scoop layup, but Abadiano and Cansino’s baskets allowed the Fighting Maroons to inch closer to La Salle. Briones came off the bench for the first time in the ball game to hit a big three and cut UP’s deficit to just one possession, 70-67. From then on, Canino willed his side to the lead with back-to-back baskets, 75-74, with the team from Taft struggling to find an answer.
Big-time players, big-time plays
With the pain of their previous defeat to the Fighting Maroons still lingering, Coach Topex Robinson called for a much-needed timeout and slotted in a small-ball lineup by reinserting Policarpio for M. Phillips to play the five. With Policarpio and Quiambao running the frontcourt, the five-out spread of the Green and White allowed them to work wonders.
It was none other than Kevin Quiambao who stepped up to decide the ball game for La Salle. He tallied eight straight points, the last of which was a free throw, with “MVP” chants pouring in as his free throw graced the net to go away with the game, 84-77. Cansino then scared La Salle with a deep ball but stepped on the line as Nelle responded from almost the half-court line with a three of his own to close out the game, 88-79.
After another Player of the Game performance, Quiambao was quick to deflect all the praise directed towards him, affirming, “Tulad ng lagi kong sinasabi, ‘yung stats na ‘to, galing lang sa system ni Coach. Dinodoble ko lang ‘yung effort ko…trust the system lang.”
(Like what I always say, these statistics just come from Coach’s system. I just double my effort…just trust the system.)
Finally inching closer to officially clinching a Final Four berth, Robinson once again emphasized the importance of staying humble as a team, “We always run our own race. We don’t control what Adamson is gonna do on Wednesday, but we control what we do. We made a lot of mistakes, and we’re gonna make sure we address [them].”
The DLSU Green Archers, who are currently 7-3 in the standings, will face the 5-5 AdU Soaring Falcons on Wednesday, November 8, at 6 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for their second-round clash.
DLSU 88 – Quiambao 22, Nelle 17, M. Phillips 15, Escandor 11, Policarpio 11, Abadam 3, Nonoy 3, Austria 2, Cortez 2, Manuel 2, David 0, Macalalag 0, Nwankwo 0, B. Phillips 0
UP 79 – Cansino 20, Felicilda 13, Alarcon 10, Abadiano 9, Pablo 6, Briones 5, Lopez 4, Torculas 4, Alter 2, Belmonte 2, Fortea 2, Torres 2, Gagate 0
Quarter Scores: 22-14, 51-39, 66-59, 88-79