UAAP: Green Archers dominate Bulldogs, return to UAAP Finals after six-year drought

The DLSU Green Archers booked their ticket to the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Finals after a lopsided win against the third-seeded NU Bulldogs, 97-73, earlier tonight, November 25, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. La Salle is now set to return to the big stage after a six-year drought and will face the UP Fighting Maroons in what will be the two teams’ first Finals meeting in UAAP history.

Player of the Game Mark Nonoy was on fire for La Salle, scoring a game-high 20 points on 57.1 percent while making four triples out of nine attempts. Kevin Quiambao, on the other hand, chipped in 17 markers, eight rebounds, and a steal. Meanwhile, Evan Nelle and Michael Phillips both performed balanced games for the Green and White. The former contributed 15 points, five boards, eight assists, and two steals, while the latter tallied a double-double with 11 markers, 10 rebounds, four dishes, and a game-high three takeaways.

In a valiant effort by the team from Sampaloc, NU forward Jake Figueroa led his team in scoring and rebounding with 19 points and nine rebounds. Backing him up was flashy point guard Kean Baclaan, who had an all-around game with 12 points, seven boards, and six assists. Big man Mike Malonzo added 13 points and eight boards for the Bulldogs.

Inside-out dominance

Entering the Final Four as the second seed after missing last year’s edition, the Green Archers were armed and ready to showcase championship-level basketball by focusing on their ball movement, efficiency, and discipline on both ends of the floor. M. Phillips and Nelle were the first to catch fire for La Salle, scoring the first 14 DLSU points in the opening quarter. The duo’s inside-out scoring, coupled with their excellent perimeter and post defense, gave the Green and White the boost they needed to gain the upperhand in the battle, 14-10.

Jonnel Policarpio joined the offensive rally by scoring four-straight points of his own, 18-12. The Green Archers, despite being heavily outrebounded by the Bulldogs, excelled in recovering loose balls and outrunning NU. With this, both teams headed to the huddle to end the first quarter with La Salle ahead, 20-14.

Nonoy versus Baclaan

The second quarter featured an even better story for the higher-seeded Green and White. Nonoy opened the period with two quick layups in isolation and then in transition–the beginning of what was to come for DLSU. However, countering the La Salle guard was Baclaan who also shared the same ability to shift speeds like Nonoy. In a span of four minutes, the two dueled, trading baskets. Baclaan constantly cut through the Green Archers’ paint defense, but Nonoy drilled multiple shots from downtown to put his team up double digits, 36-26.

In the latter parts of the quarter, a variety of Green Archers came together to halt any of the Bulldogs’ attempts at a run. The Taft-based squad was steady with their offense and was feisty with their defense; the opposite of NU’s uncharacteristically scrappy playstyle. The opening half ended with DLSU ahead, 45-36.

The Green and White were out-hustled on the glass, 26-16. Despite this, they made up for their boxout mistakes by tallying eight steals to NU’s three. What gave La Salle the advantage, though, was their efficiency, shooting 51.4 percent with five threes compared to the Bulldogs at 39.5 percent and one three-pointer. And, following the second quarter duel, Nonoy was the one leading the charge for DLSU with 13 first half points and three triple, while Baclaan kept his team alive with 10 points and seven boards.

Cruise control

Out of the locker room, the two coaching staffs of each team began a chess match-like affair with their matchup adjustments inside the hardwood. After being thrown a 2-3 zone defense, NU Head Coach Jeff Napa countered by bringing in mobile bigs. DLSU Head Coach Topex Robinson answered by inserting second-round breakout player Policarpio and abandoning their zone in favor of man-to-man defense. This worked wonders, as the Green Archers converted their defensive stops to baskets on the other end. 

After a Figueroa layup, the Green and White went on a 7-0 run which forced NU to call a timeout with under seven minutes left in the quarter, 54-40. Slowly and steadily, the team from Taft built on a huge 20-point lead after three quarters. Converting missed shots of NU to easy layups in transition. Nonoy stayed hot from downtown with his three-pointer in the dying seconds of the quarter. The UAAP Season 82 Rookie of the Year continued his renaissance in Season 86, building the biggest lead of the Green Archers to 24.

Six years in the making 

Despite going into the final frame with a comfortable lead, the Green Archers showed the same intensity opening the last quarter. M. Phillips slammed the ball off a good seal inside, 80-57, to build another 23-point lead for the Green Archers. NU did not let go easily and fought back with Figueroa carrying the team scoring an easy layup in transition and a pair of free throws, which forced coach Topex to call a timeout with 5:12 minutes left in the quarter, 82-63. 

After a sudden scare from the Bulldogs, Quiambao towed the Green Archers further into the fourth. The NU Nazareth-product dished out nifty assists to Nonoy off a backdoor cut to score an easy layup, 86-65. Quiambao then sealed the win for the Green and White at the free throw line with the crowd shouting MVP chants, 89-67. Macalalag converted a pair of free throws in the end game, 97-73, to extend the lead to 24 points. 

Following the victory, Nonoy shared his thoughts about how he feels returning to the big stage after continuing his breakout in Season 86, “Sobrang sarap sa pakiramdam makabalik sa Finals. Sa mga sumusuporta, sana patuloy pa rin. Para sa school namin ‘to.”

(It feels really great to go back to the Finals. To our supporters, we hope you continue supporting us. This is for our school.)

Later on, DLSU Head Coach Robinson addressed questions on the team’s outlook to the Finals. “We are gonna go to the Finals [to earn the championship], not have it given to us. We really have to earn every possession. From the jump ball, up to the final buzzer, we have to make sure that we will work together as a team,” the coach stated.

When asked about their matchup with UP, Robinson gave much-due props to the top-seeded Fighting Maroons, expressing, “We are gonna go in as outsiders because [UP] is a great team, [but] these guys love a great challenge…Coaching might be a factor, but it is only 10 percent compared to the 90 percent that [the players] do for us.”

With tonight’s commanding win, the DLSU Green Archers are back in the Finals after a six-year absence facing the UP Fighting Maroons for the first time in UAAP history this Wednesday, November 29, at 6 pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:

DLSU 97 – Nonoy 20, Quiambao 17, Nelle 15, M. Philips 11, Policario 9, Escandor 9, David 5, Cortez 4, Macalalag 4, Abadam 3, Austria 0, Gollena 0, Nwankwo 0

NU 73 – Figueroa 19, Malonzo 13, Baclaan 12, Palacielo 8, Yu 8, Jumamoy 7, Padrones 2, Manansala 2,  Galinato 2, Enriquez 0, Lim 0, John 0, Gulapa 0, Parks 0, Casinillo 0

Quarter Scores: 20-14, 45-36, 70-50, 97-73

Gab Ortiz

By Gab Ortiz

Raphael Serrano

By Raphael Serrano

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