by Neal Tieng
The De La Salle Green Archers found a way to crack their offensive slump and delivered a 1-2 blitz combo in the second half, had a brief stumble at the end, and just had enough to hold off a furious UST rally in the last seconds to pull off a 80-79 survival win last night at the Araneta Coliseum.
UST’s controversial rookie Rhenz Abando almost resurrected the dead Tigers with two triples to trim the once-imposing 80-71 lead to just a single possession, 80-77, with 10 seconds to go.
With 10 seconds left, a 3-point lead and ball possession is supposed to be safe.
Abando stole off an emergency pass by the double-teamed La Salle captain Andrei Caracut, sprinted downcourt and elevated for an uncontested long bomb in the dying seconds. It was all net. The crowd exploded seeing overtime.
But the green side got their last cheer when the officials ruled the three to be a two because Abando’s shoes was 5mm inside the 3 point line preserving the Archers’ one-point lead with a second to go.
Caracut tricked the pressing UST defense in the next play by bouncing the ball off the back of UST’s Ira Battalier as the remaining second ran out giving DLSU their 6-6 record, and more importantly keeping our Final Four hopes alive by running only half game behind FEU and UST, both with identical 7-6 cards.
But the real story of La Salle’s conquest of the trigger-happy Tigers was not in the waning seconds of the game, rather it was in the pivotal third. Trailing 37-44 at half time, the Green Archers unleashed the first killer 12-4 burst ignited by the triple by Jaime Orme-Malonzo to open the second half. Aljun Melecio and Justine Baltazar went on a scoring binge from inside, before the Archers finally snatched the lead 49-48 via a Joaqui Manuel two with 6:10 to go in the 3rd.
And the Archers had every intention not to let this game go down the wire. Brandon Bates put up a barricade in the paint, and controled the boards to keep UST to just one attempt per possession. In the process, Baltazar’s dream of becoming a stretch 4 was previwed when he banged home a triple to jack up the lead to 61-54 with a minute to go, then Malonzo’s basket gave La Salle a 9-point lead going into the final quarter.
As La Salle’s offensive machine was humming in the 4th, UST started to misfire, and the Archers looked like they were going to cruise into an easy win with double-digit leads going into the final minutes.
And it was only in the final minute when UST’s Abando revived the dead-in-the-water Tigers when the score was 80-71 with just a minute to go. Wanting to pull off a Reggie Miller-like highlight, Abando drained two triples in 18 seconds and could have sank the equalizing basket had it not for his stepping violation.
Malonzo led all green and white scorers with 23 points, but it was the stellar performance of Bates which was equally as important. Bates finished the game with a double-double, 10 points and 15 boards.
Next on our list are the Fighting Maroons from UP. Tip-off will be at 4pm on Sunday, October 27, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
The countdown begins and we just have to win two more games to barge into the Final Four.
ANIMO LA SALLE!!!