UAAP: Green Archers complete title defense for second 3×3 Basketball championship, Lady Archers earn first-ever podium finish in the tournament

Following successful outings in the UAAP Season 86 3×3 Basketball Elimination Round, the DLSU Green and Lady Archers earned podium finishes in their respective divisions last Sunday, May 5, at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay Activity Center. The Men’s team completed a seven-point comeback in a triumphant win over the UE Red Warriors in the finals to bag back-to-back titles. Conversely, the Women’s team survived a close overtime victory over the AdU Lady Falcons in the battle for the bronze medal—the team’s highest-ever finish in the 3×3 competition since its establishment in Season 80.

After the tournament, CJ Austria bagged his second consecutive Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award following a consistent display of scoring. Additionally, he led La Salle to an undefeated campaign—a clean 7-0 sweep of the elimination round and, counting their victories in the semifinals and finals, a nine-game winning streak in total. Meanwhile, Jonnel Policarpio received the Rookie of the Year Award after replacing Kevin Quiambao in the starting lineup. Policarpio scored and rebounded game-highs with eight points and 12 boards in the championship game to seal the deal for the Green Archers.

On the other hand, the tandem of Ann Mendoza and Lee Sario featured a healthy in-and-out combination of scoring throughout their campaign. The Lady Archers’ duo traded attempts at strong drives and converting tough baskets, which proved to be enough to finish third overall in the Women’s division. These, complemented with Betina Binaohan and Arabell Bacierto’s reliability on both ends of the floor, created a balanced winning combination for DLSU.

Playing catch-up

The DLSU Lady Archers struggled to shoot the ball at the start of their matchup, which caused the NU Lady Bulldogs to control the pace, 9-4. Now finding their groove to inch closer, the Taft-based squad was called for a technical foul twice in a row due to a delay of the game, which resulted in one of two free throws converted by Kristine Cayabyab, 10-5.

Mendoza stopped the scoring drought for La Salle with a layup, 12-6, which trimmed it down to a six-point lead. The silver medalist of Season 85 could not be stopped as they converted stops to easy transition baskets, 16-7. Mendoza denied the Lady Bulldogs from reaching 21 easily, as she scored back-to-back layups, 17-9, but it wasn’t enough, as the NU Lady Bulldogs dispatched the DLSU Lady Archers, 20-11. 

With this loss, the Green-and-White still had a glimmer of hope for a podium finish in the battle for third. The ever-reliable Mendoza led the Lady Archers with six points and seven boards in the nine-point loss.

Battle of mental toughness

NU Bulldogs played hard-nosed defense in the semifinals, not allowing the DLSU Green Archers to score efficiently inside the paint. Ultimately, Austria didn’t stop him from attacking the basket and achieving an early two-point lead, 4-2. Jake Figueroa scored back-to-back baskets with a layup and two-pointer to regain the lead, 7-6. The tandem of Austria and Policarpio did not let the lead of NU swell, as it answered with three layups, 9-8.

The Sampaloc-based team was in trouble as they were in the penalty with under five minutes in the game, which Policarpio capitalized as it swished both free throws, 11-9. From then on, the game swung back and forth in a tense Final Four showdown between the two teams wanting to reach the finals, 15-all. 

Nash Enrique delivered a big blow, knocking down a consecutive two-pointer to lift NU, 19-17. The Green Archers settled down and kept their heads high as they inched closer to the Bulldogs. With a crucial stop and the game on the line, UAAP Season 85 3×3 MVP Austria drained a left-wing two-pointer, dashed the dreams of the Bulldogs, and propelled the Green Archer to victory and securing their spot in the finals, 21-20. 

Austria came in huge with 11 points, collected seven boards, and efficiently shot the ball at 69.2-percent, while Policarpio chipped in with nine points and four rebounds to defend their title in the finals.

Resilient bronze finish

The Lady Archers were the first to commence their final 3×3 battle of the season. Following a heartbreaking loss in the semifinals against the Lady Bulldogs, the Green-and-White were set to go toe-to-toe against the Lady Falcons for one last chance to bag a bronze finish. The game started roughly with both teams exhibiting stellar half-court defense. Adamson held an early two-point lead over La Salle, 6-4. However, Mendoza and Sario each scored a point to tie it up—a glimpse of what else was to come. Including those possessions, the showdown for the bronze finish featured seven deadlocks. The Lady Falcons showcased smooth shooting, while the Lady Archers put pressure in the paint.

When the score reached halfway through the goal, DLSU held the advantage, 12-10. Despite the lead, the Taft-based squad committed their 10th foul immediately, after which, per UAAP rules, they would reward the opposing team with two free throws and a possession for every succeeding foul they committed. This resulted in AdU earning eight free throws—only half of which were converted into points. 

After Sario broke the tie with a layup 15-14, Lady Falcon Cheska Apag scored back-to-back markers off a pair of drives, which put her team ahead, 16-15. Sario, being DLSU’s offensive spark, went for the lay-in that found itself under the net to tie things up once more, plus a foul. However, she could not convert the and-one play, which forced overtime. Ultimately, Sario and then Mendoza scored the final two baskets for the Lady Archers’ third-place finish, disabling any late-game chances for a Lady Falcons comeback.

Mendoza poured in a valiant effort in DLSU’s win with seven points, nine rebounds, and a block. Sario, on the other hand, put in six points, including the go-ahead basket that forced overtime. The Lady Archers also shot 59.1-percent as a team while limiting Adamson to only a collective 36-percent from the field. Additionally, the Green-and-White outrebounded their opponent, 17-12, a critical factor in controlling the tempo of the high-stakes match.

Back-to-back 3×3 kings

For the Green Archers, it was their final challenge against the formidable Red Warriors before they got a taste of back-to-back titles. UE, known for their hot perimeter shooting in the tournament, looked to challenge DLSU’s intense paint pressure and quick isolations. When the whistle blew for the first possession, UE immediately let it fly from beyond the arc, hitting four two-pointers in the fast-paced action. Within the game’s first three minutes, the Red Warriors scored 11 quick points to the Green Archers’ four. The seven-point deficit in a finals game seemed out of reach, given the reigning MVP, Austria, undergoing a cold shooting streak.

Despite the vast advantage of UE, DLSU showed why they were the defending champions. The Green-and-White stormed back to regain the lead with a monstrous 10-2 run to swing the momentum to their side. La Salle took advantage of the Red Warriors’ careless fouling and stepped up their defense, anchored by the workhorse rookie Aaron Buensalida. And, with a pair of crucial freebies by Earl Abadam, the Green Archers were finally up, 14-13. The Taft-based squad continued to ignite their offensive rallies with strong stops through closeouts and excellently-timed contests at the basket, countering UE’s signature drive-and-kick action. With 1:50 remaining in the game clock, Policarpio extended the lead to a three-point cushion. 

However, after Jack Cruz-Dumont swished in a free throw followed by an Abadam midrange jumper, Ethan Galang desperately converted a long-range two-pointer to cut DLSU’s lead to just one with 19.9 seconds remaining. After Abadam was called for a travel on his way to the basket, the Red Warriors gained possession for the final 13.2 seconds in the game clock but could not find a basket because La Salle was playing the strategic foul game. The buzzer sounded, and the Green Archers were back-to-back 3×3 champions.

Abadam, who manned the perimeter for the Green Archers in the championship match, mentioned the team’s keys in stacking up victories and bringing the gold back to Taft, “We just stayed focused every game, and we took one game at a time. We didn’t want to underestimate any of our opponents. Every game, we went hard. Every time we stood on the court, it was go mode.”

On the other hand, Policarpio commented on the winning experience by naming the people behind their success, “Sobrang sarap maging pusong-kampyon. Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga coaches namin…and ‘yung teammates naming sumuporta.”

(It feels so good to have the heart of a champion. I would like to thank our coaches…and our teammates who supported us.)

The Green Archers now hold the crowns for both 3×3 and 5×5 basketball. And, with the recent win, the Men’s team tallied their fourth podium finish in total in the five seasons of 3×3 competition. Meanwhile, the Women’s team will look to improve their third-place win in next year’s competition and will also have their eyes set on a much better campaign for the 5×5 tournament after missing out on the Final Four.

Gab Ortiz

By Gab Ortiz

Raphael Serrano

By Raphael Serrano

Leave a Reply