PBA D-LEAGUE: EcoOil La Salle grabs 1-0 semis advantage after third-quarter shooting spree against St. Clare

EcoOil La Salle dominated the first game of their best-of-three series against Go Torakku-St. Clare College in the semifinals of the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup earlier tonight, April 25, at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig. The Green-and-White look to take home Game Two to secure an appearance in the Finals. 

Mike Phillips led his team to victory with 17 points as their top-scorer and bagged nine rebounds with an efficient 58.3-percent field goal rating, becoming unstoppable in the paint. 

Despite showing gallant efforts in the first half, John Estacio still put up 12 points for St. Clare. Ryan Sual and Megan Galang put up double digits as well, with 11 and 10 points, respectively. 

Lackluster opening

With their opponents fresh from an elating win last Monday, EcoOil La Salle needed to keep up with their opponent’s high intensity. They defaulted to their unselfish plays as executed by Jcee Macalalag, EJ Abadam, and Phillips with their easy looks through handoffs and a pick-and-roll play to grab an early seven-point lead three minutes in, 8-1. 

However, the Green Archers would see their momentum cool as constant fouls due to their opponents’ aggression slowed down the game’s pacing. With their shooting touches now stagnant, La Salle saw St. Clare tie the game at the 2:30 mark, with the opposition insistent on stamping their mark in the first quarter, 8-all. DLSU opted for a small ball lineup after the game was tied, and it looked like they were picking up the pace and momentum, but a three by Sual gave the black shirts their first lead of the match, 11-8. La Salle maintained their composure as their signature press gave way for Raven Cortez to tie the game, but St. Clare remained persistent on grabbing the lead as a late shot in the first quarter put them ahead, 13-11.

With a narrow gap between the two sides, no team gave an inch for their opposition as they traded baskets despite good defense from both squads. However, constant fouls from the Green-and-White allowed St. Clare to pull away and add salt to the wound, so Henry Agunanne got into foul trouble, limiting La Salle’s options inside. Galang extended the deficit for DLSU as he found his shooting touch, knocking down two three-pointers for his eighth point in the quarter, 29-20. 

Though, tides turned for the Green Archers as Phillips got to work inside the paint and caused Babacar Ndong and Simone De Guzman to get into foul trouble. With the black shirts’ attention now on Phillips, Josh David and CJ Austria found space for easy shots to cut the lead to two, 31-29. Despite Phillips’ late outburst, it looked like St. Clare would take the advantage going into the break off of their two late baskets. However, Austria grabbed the lead for the Green Archers as his full-court shot went inside the net to give La Salle a two-point lead, 36-34.

Standing their ground 

The third quarter started off strong for EcoOil La Salle with a seven-point turnout and multiple defensive stops in the first two minutes of the quarter, but Go Torakku-St. Clare College did not hold back with six points, scoring consecutive baskets. After this back-and-forth dogfight between the two teams, the game was shortly suspended for a short period of time due to technical problems that involved the lights on the court suddenly shutting down. This rattled the momentum of both squads and disrupted the game’s flow.  

After the unexpected break, EcoOil La Salle pushed the lead to four with a layup by Macalalag and an emphatic dunk by Phillips. During the middle of the third quarter, La Salle ended up in the lead with 10 points, 55-43. Raining down threes, making right plays, and drawing good fouls to secure freebies at the free throw line. With under two minutes left in the third frame, St. Clare called for a crucial timeout due to La Salle’s dominant scoring run. Nearing the end of the quarter, EcoOil La Salle put up three straight three-pointers that ballooned the advantage to 23 markers, 70-47.

After a fair exchange of passes and shots, the fourth quarter ended with finesse for EcoOil La Salle, making the right plays and turning defensive stops which halted their opponents from dominating them. The game finished with a score of 85-65, marking a landslide win for EcoOil La Salle over Go Torakku-St. Clare College.

With this victory, EcoOil La Salle grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three semis in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup. They look to finish the series and advance to the Finals in Game Two on Tuesday, April 30, at 7:30 pm at the same venue.

The Scores:

DLSU 85 – Phillips 17, Agunanne 14, David 12, Austria 11, Macalalag 8, Rubico 8, Abadam 6, Cortez 5, Gaspay 3, Alian 1, Romero 0 

St. Clare 65 – Estacio 12, Sual 11, Galang 10, Decano 6, Cabauatan 6, Ndong 5, Burgos 5, De Guzman 4, Acosta 3, Tapenio 2, Russel 1, Balacaoc 0 

Quarter Scores: 11-13, 36-34, 70-47, 85-65

Vito Alim

By Vito Alim

Daniel Quiroga

By Daniel Quiroga

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