Published on September 21st, 2018 | by Khyte Mendoza0
4 (+1) Factors in the Green Archers’ win against the NU Bulldogs
After a tough opening game loss at the hands of the FEU Tamaraws, the De La Salle University Green Archers vented their ire out to the National University Bulldogs last Wednesday with a tight 80-76 victory to chalk down win no. 1 in the UAAP Season 81.
The Green Archers trailed by as much as 11 and had a dismal 5 of 29 three-point shooting clip, but they managed to chop down the deficit and steal the victory from the Bulldogs. It was not easy for La Salle. However, it found its way through these factors that spelled the difference in the game:
Coach Louise Gonzales mentioned time and again that he isn’t going to bring major changes to the team’s system and that the suffocating fullcourt trap will still be there. That’s what took them to the finals twice and gave them a title back in Season 79, so why remove something that works right?
Trailing by three, 35-38, at halftime, DLSU began the second half clamping down on the defensive end. The Green Archers slowly but surely rallied back and snatched the victory over NU. They forced 16 turnovers (including a crucial five-second violation that allowed La Salle to hit the dagger free throws) and converted them to 13 points. La Salle had six steals, while National U only had one. It all started with more energy on the defensive end – first to 50/50, pesky hands and sticky on and off-ball defense.
The more-experienced La Salle crew showed their poise in a nip-and-tuck affair against a young NU team. DLSU looked like it would start the season 0-2, but the vets never gave up and capitalized on the Bulldogs’ lapses offensively and defensively. The former was a predator smelling blood from its prey as it kept on attacking, knowing what to do to take full advantage of the situation and to turn the tables around after 40 minutes of play.
Aljun Melecio’s timely baskets
The spitfire point guard still had not found his stroke from deep, hitting only 1 of his 9 shots from long distance. To everyone who follows him in the UAAP, Melecio is and will always be unfazed even if he has been firing blanks. He knows he can make those triples and it’s just a matter of time.
When La Salle was down by a two, pushing and pounding to finally have its first taste of the lead, the former rookie of the year popped out from the right wing and without hesitation, launched a three-point bomb to help DLSU take the driver’s seat with 4:37 remaining in the third frame. Fearless. Just fearless. What a time for it to come. That kind of shot is what I used to take in our barangay league. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the shooting skill that Aljun has. The coach (which was my dad) scratched his head and I immediately went straight to the bench.
Fast forward to the fourth period with a little over 3 minutes left, the Taft squad suddenly found itself trailing National U, 71-72. And again to the rescue was the pint-sized guard going coast-to-coast for a layup plus a foul. He sank the bonus to lift his team back on top. The Idefonso brothers then scored two consecutive baskets en route to a 76-74 advantage.
There was still a lot of time left and the green side was just behind by one possession. Did the Bulldogs know who was taking the shot? Because I did. Antonio Joson left a tiny space for Melecio in the left corner. The latter went up for the trey. The ball hit the back-rim but he got hacked. He nailed two of three from the stripe; good enough to knot the scores with 1:24 to go.
The De La Salle-Zobel standout stepped up and led the scoring for the Archers with 19 points on 44% shooting together with four rebounds, two assists and a steal against two turnovers. Solid bounce-back game after a rough performance against FEU.
Justine Baltazar and Santi Santillan’s dirty work inside
With 6’8 big man Taane Samuel out for weeks due to injury, the La Salle frontline got thinner, but not for the lengthy Baltazar and graduating senior Santillan.
Baltazar finally unleashed a monster game as he scored a career-high in points with 17, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out three assists and had one block. The former Bullpups star (oh ironic) broke the heart of NU, connecting with a baseline jumper to give DLSU the 78-76 edge with 28 seconds to play.
On the other hand, the ever-reliable Santillan chipped in nine points, nine rebounds and was +11 on the floor.
Both players together with Brandon Bates and rookie Joaquin Manuel combined for 18 of La Salle’s 23 offensive rebounds. That’s a lot of second-chance opportunities.
(+1) Troy Rike’s missed free throws
The Gilas cadet had a chance to put the Bulldogs ahead with 53 ticks left, but he missed both from the line. Kib Montalbo made a good foul if I were to be asked. Rike missed four of his last six attempts before the last two. NU could’ve won or Balti’s shot could’ve just been a game-tier. It was a relief.