Green Archers Bow to Red Lions, Lose FilOil Crown
Published on June 26th, 2017 | by Louie Fernando
Another La Salle-San Beda match up, another classic game.
The De La Salle Green Archers went all-in to oust rival San Beda Red Lions in the finals match up of the 2017 FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup but crucial mistakes down the stretch cost them the game in a nail biter, 75-72, Sunday in San Juan.
In a tight game from start to finish with tons of highlight plays, the play of the game is reserved to none other than San Beda’s Robert Bolick. After a couple of breath-taking plays from both squads, the Green Archers’ offense was seemingly lost in the last minute. The Red Lions used their stingy defense to clamp down La Salle and made a stop that gave Bolick a great chance to show the Green Archers what they’re missing.
With 12 seconds left in the game Bolick brought the ball down the court, took a couple dribbles to his left and delivered a dagger three to the heart of his former team that will surely be in the minds of everyone in green for quite some time. Adding salt to wound, the former Green Archer then proceeded to celebrate the big shot by walking down to La Salle’s bench to call game.
Both teams provided scintillating plays in the final quarter leading to Bolick’s big shot. After losing the lead to San Beda in the fourth and being down by 5 points at most, La Salle was again knocking on the lead after Santi Santillan, a former team b player, made a huge fastbreak dunk to cut the deficit 65-66. But Bolick stepped up every time to silence the Green and White team, this time with a big three pointer, to extend back the deficit to 65-69.
The Taft-based squad’s offense started to fluctuate upward again carried by its starpower. After a hard-earned Ricci Rivero up and under in the elbow, followed by a Santillan put back and a clutch three off a screen by Aljun Melecio that gave birth to an out-of-nowhere 7-2 run, DLSU seemed to have the game in the bag leading 72-69 with around 1:15 remaining in the game.
After calling for timeout San Beda tried to come up with a play to tie the game but DLSU’s Ben Mbala came up with a huge block on a three-point attempt in the corner. In a game defining moment, La Salle lacked discipline in boxing out for the board and could not secure the rebound, giving the second chance opportunity to San Beda, the Red Lions capitalized and the team showcased sharp ball movement making all five men on the court touch the ball in one possession, to free up Ao Soberano from beyond for a big go-ahead long three to put the game on a deadlock 72-72. The rest was history as Bolick seized the moment and hit “the shot”, while the Green Archers looked shell-shocked and could not muster a point.
With two quarters already in the books, the Green Archers and Red Lions were locked in the midst of a grit and grind game with DLSU holding the slightest of margins 36-35. Speedy shot-creator Aljun Melecio made sure his team opened the 3rd quarter with a bang as he opened the floodgates with a long range bomb to advance the lead 39-35.
Subsequently, with momentum on their side, the other Green Archers followed suit and blurted out a brief 9-2 run to build the largest lead of the game 49-42, courtesy of the frontcourt tandem of Mbala and Santillan.
However, these Red Lions were more than equipped to fire back against the Green Archers’ star power. Bolick rallied his team and showed up big against his former team in a do-or-die game with a blistering performance scoring 24 points, grabbing 8 boards, and dishing out 6 assists, leading the way for San Beda.
The San Beda star guard made sure his Lions were always in the game. San Beda quickly shot La Salle’s lead down to two possessions, 55-51, as the all-around point guard either executed a set play perfectly for his team or scored in the waning seconds of the shot clock to bail his team for some points.
As the game slugged on, both teams battled hard down the line on every possession, fighting for loose balls, diving on the floor and giving out hard fouls, answering each other with every bucket but the Green Archers showed that the team has issues to address to be back in the same line of greatness La Salle showed last year. An intangible asset that they seemed to have along with their stacked line-up from top to bottom: team chemistry.
DLSU’s offense became stagnant relying on isolation plays to score a basket, forcing shots against the Red Lions’ stifling defense that lead to a lot of bad possessions. The Green Archers were not able to take care of the rock in this game, coughing it out 15 times compared to the Red Lions’ 8 turnovers; contrast to their games in the past wherein their exploits came off of opponent turnovers, but perhaps this was caused by San Beda’s great execution in both ends of the floor. Also there were moments in the game where defensive rotations were erratic and it lead to breakdowns and easy scoring opportunities for San Beda.
Besides the turnovers and defensive breakdowns, this game came down to which team moved the ball and which team executed better on offense. La Salle does not have star veterans such as Jeron Teng and Thomas Torres anymore, bringing in more young inexperienced studs to the team. DLSU is known for recruiting great players but it is not every year that you get a player like Melecio or Caracut. As a result, San Beda manifested a more coherent and gelled team through its crisp ball movement and better set play executions and at times plainly just a better team overall. The Red Lions dished out 13 team assists versus La Salle’s 9 and this was a huge difference during the later moments in the game.
The Green Archers did show its muscle by out rebounding the Red Lions 49-44, with 8 surprising boards even coming from a relatively dimunitive 5’8 guard Melecio. The rebounding advantage is not a surprise though with the Green and White team boasting Mbala as their rim protector, they are bound to dominate the paint. However, La Salle let this advantage go to waste, negated by the team’s rampant miscommunication on both ends of the floor that lead to second chance options and more possessions for San Beda. It proved costly in the dying minutes as the game slowed down working against coach Aldin Ayo’s Mayhem system, which the team relies upon for some quick spurts of scoring.
As expected from a finals game, the crowd was raucous and the match was physical and chippy from start to end. San Beda’s head coach was called for a technical foul in the middle of the 2nd quarter. Also, Green Archer rookie Josh Gonzales was called for excessive action and received a flagrant foul after giving a hard foul on a Bolick lay-up attempt in the same quarter. There was also a lot of back and forth bickering from both teams that provided great entertainment for the spectators, still both teams did show sportsmanship in the game.
On the other side of the La Salle’s painful loss, Co-Green Archers Mbala and Rivero were awarded with the Mythical Team honors. Deservingly so, Mbala added to his basketball resumé by taking home the MVP award, a bright spot for the Taft-based squad. The dominant center proved why he was chosen best player with a double-double, duking it out for his squad through a 25 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks outing.
With the departure of its core players, this year’s Green Archers are younger and more inexperienced. After finishing 7-3 for the preseason cup and being a possession away from repeating as FilOil champions, DLSU’s future still looks bright, spearheaded by big and talented names such as Mbala, Rivero, Melecio, Andrei Caracut, and of course Kib Montalbo. The squad surely gained valuable experience from this campaign that they can use to get better and be more equipped and battle ready for the next UAAP campaign, which will be the first in many years sans Teng.
Mbala 25, Melecio 14, Santillan 12, Rivero 11, Caracut 5, Baltazar 2, Tratter 2, Tero 1, Go 0, Gonzales 0
Bolick 24, Mocon 13, Doliguez 8, Potts 7, Presbitero 7, Carino 6, Soberano 6, Noah 2, Adamos 2, Tongco 0, Eugene 0, Bahio 0, Abuda 0