UAAP: Green Archers overcome fourth-quarter woes versus Blue Eagles to complete Round Two sweep

The DLSU Green Archers survived for a hard-earned triumph over their archrival ADMU Blue Eagles in a highly-anticipated rivalry match that came down to the final possession earlier today, November 18, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. The Green and White improved to 11-3, earning their eighth-straight victory, avenging their Round One defeat, and sweeping the entire Second Round.

Kevin Quiambao once again led the charge for the Green Archers, chipping in 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block. The trio of Evan Nelle, Mark Nonoy, and Mike Phillips also contributed heavily to the victory with a well-balanced, double-digit scoring. La Salle point guard Nelle added 10 markers, five rebounds, and six assists. Nonoy also had 10 points of his own along with four rebounds and two made threes. However, M. Phillips was the ultimate glue guy for DLSU, tallying an all-around 10 points, 14 boards–nine of which were offensive rebounds—four assists, a game-high four takeaways, and two blocks.

In the trying effort, Blue Eagles center Joseph Obasa was dominant on both ends with a game-high of 21 markers, nine boards, two steals, and three blocks. Kai Ballungay complemented Obasa’s performance with 12 points and five rebounds, while Mason Amos scored 10 points on three triples for Ateneo.

Changing tides

From the tip-off, both teams were locked in as they immediately showcased their heated and history-filled rivalry. The Blue Eagles struck first with two quick baskets coming from a wide-open corner three by Koon and an Obasa putback slam, 5-0. The first Green Archers score came from an ADMU goaltend and Jonnel Policarpio splitting his free throws, 5-3. However, shots were not falling early from a variety of DLSU players as they were held down by Ateneo’s gritty defense. It was only at the 5:45 mark that Quiambao drilled a triple from the wing–La Salle’s first field goal but still behind, 8-6. 

The battle was close for the entire period–a glimpse of what was to come in the rest of the match. Despite the Blue Eagles attempting to gain a sizable early advantage, the Green Archers kept their composure and fought back with intensity on the defensive end. The first quarter ended with the Green and White trailing, 17-14, while only holding the lead for a span of 1:03 minutes.

The succeeding period featured both squads increasing their physicality, halting any possible runs. After trading baskets in the first minute, Joshua David, returning from his absence last game, hit a contested three-pointer from the wing to regain the lead for DLSU, 21-19. Policarpio added to this at the charity stripe by draining two more free throws, 23-19, totaling five made out of six attempts in the first half. La Salle excelled with their paint defense but failed to keep up with ADMU’s drive-and-kick action. 

After back-to-back Amos threes for the Blue Eagles, the Green Archers turned up their pace, scoring in transition, on fastbreaks, and in the paint. The Taft-based squad trailed 30-29, but Francis Escandor tied the game at 30-all after splitting his freebies. 

It was the previous Player of the Game Nonoy who closed the first half for DLSU on a high note. The shifty guard faked a three that left his defender in the air where he stepped back and knocked down a wing triple. Two minutes later, Nonoy danced through the Blue Eagles’ defense and found big man Raven Cortez under the basket with a flashy no-look pass that left the La Salle crowd roaring. As the buzzer sounded for halftime, both teams headed to the locker rooms with the Green Archers leading, 35-32. The team stats after the first two quarters were almost identical, but DLSU outscored ADMU 21-15 in the second period, giving the Green and White the lead.

A game of runs 

The Green Archers’ struggles with interior defense continued to open the second half, as Obasa scored three field goals in the first three minutes exiting the break. Keeping La Salle afloat, Earl Abadam proved to be a spark off the bench again with two cutting layups after being put in the game for the first time, 44-38. DLSU was able to run away with the lead as Policarpio gave ADMU all sorts of problems with his versatility, getting a stuff before a full-court assist to Nonoy and running the pick-and-roll for a layup, 48-38, in an 8-0 run.

In the closing moments of the third frame, Ateneo picked up steam, but DLSU Head Coach Topex Robinson opted to hold on to his timeouts, seeing his side’s lead dwindle to 51-46 in an 8-3 swing for their rivals.

La Salle was flat-footed on defense come the beginning of the fourth, allowing their lead to slip to two at 56-54 after a Ballungay breakaway layup at the 6:27 mark. After the swing in favor of the team from Katipunan, the Green and White had no choice but to call for time.

DLSU struggled to regain their separation exiting the huddle, trading baskets with ADMU until back-to-back threes by David and Nelle allowed La Salle to pull away once again, 64-56. This prompted ADMU Head Coach Tab Baldwin to burn a timeout at the 5:04 mark. 

From there, it seemed that the team from Taft was poised to run away with the game, but Jared Brown hit a big three-pointer with two minutes left on the clock to cap off a 9-2 run for the Blue Eagles, cutting the DLSU lead to just a single digit, 66-65, and forcing Robinson to call a timeout. 

Playing both ends

With the game hanging in the balance, CJ Austria stole a crucial inbound pass before Nelle hit a runner to bring the lead back up at 68-65. With just 40 seconds left to play, M. Phillips managed to step through for a layup and give La Salle a cushion, but Chris Koon kept the game at one-possession, 70-67. Amos was inserted as the side from Katipunan was looking for a three, but Quiambao switched defensive assignments to take on the sharpshooter and force a stop before Nelle closed out the game at the line, 72-69.

After the contest, Coach Topex Robinson gave Ateneo their flowers for putting up a good fight, saying, “It’s a surreal feeling playing Ateneo [in front of] this crowd…We were ahead most of the time, [but] we knew that they were gonna fight their way through [because] what’s important to us is also important to them.” Robinson, talking about their Round One meeting that ended in a La Salle loss, also mentioned, “We’ve learned from our mistakes during the first time we met [Ateneo]. These players have grown through those experiences and I’m just happy that these guys never give up… I’m passing the honor to these guys who are really warriors.”

Player of the Game Quiambao recalled the team’s struggles in the prior season after getting knocked off from Final Four contention. The frontrunner for the Season 86 MVP Award credited the coaching staff for their success, “Sobrang saya na nakaabot na kami sa Final Four ngayon…Simula nung hinawakan na ni Coach Topex ‘tong program na ‘to, talagang ‘yung level [ng team], umangat.

(I’m really happy that we clinched the Final Four this time… Since Coach Topex spearheaded this program, the team leveled up.)

“Credits din sa lahat ng coaching staff, lalong-lalo na sa strength and conditioning [coaches] namin dahil last season, sobrang dami naming injury pero ngayon, manageable na lahat. Nag-stick kami sa system [nila] kaya ‘yung learning process, nando’n pa rin,” Quiambao added.

(Credits also go to the entire coaching staff, most especially to our strength and conditioning coaches, because last season, we had a lot of injuries, but this time, everything has been manageable. We stuck to the coaches’ system, that’s why the learning process is always there.)

Following this win, the Green Archers await the results of the final elimination round games tomorrow, November 19, to find out their Final Four matchup as the first side to have guaranteed twice-to-beat in Season 86. An NU Bulldogs win over the UP Fighting Maroons would see La Salle as the first seed. On the other hand, a win by the side from Diliman would see DLSU butt heads with NU with a twice-to-beat advantage.

The Scores:

DLSU 72 – Quiambao 14, Nelle 10, M. Phillips 10, Nonoy 10, Policarpio 9, Austria 6, David 6, Abadam 4, Cortez 2, Escandor 1, Manuel 0, Macalalag 0

ADMU 69 – Obasa 21, Ballungay 12, Amos 10, Koon 9, Quitevis 4, Espinosa 4, Credo 4, Brown 3, Lazaro 2, Nieto 0, Chiu 0

Quarter Scores: 17-14, 35-32, 51-46, 72-69

Gab Ortiz

By Gab Ortiz

Diego Manzano

By Diego Manzano

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