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    The same sequence was repeated a couple of times on the giant screen that hung imposingly above the playing court. It was also replayed several times on television, a couple of times to verify if the shot counted, another couple of times featuring game sponsors. In the following days, it’s going to be seen on thousands of laptop, computers, tablets, and smartphones, making the rounds on social media.

    It features the same cast, playing the same roles, in the same setting, in an endless loop.

    Mike Tolomia, guarded by Julian Sargent. Mac Belo waiting on the corner. The clock reading eight, reading seven, reading six, reading five. Tolomia moving towards the basket, trying to elude Sargent. Jason Perkins helping Sargent. Tolomia jumping, then passing at the last moment to an open Belo. Perkins running and putting a hand up in his face. The shot tracing a long, invisible arc before splashing through the hoop, just as the basket’s edges turn an angry red to signal the end of the game.

    Belo being mobbed by his teammates, as they jumped up and down in a circle. Perkins sitting dejectedly on the floor, at the exact spot where Belo made the shot. Almond Vosotros crumpled near the middle of the court, having played his last game as an Archer.

    The prevailing mood over the Lasallian faithful wasn’t anger, wasn’t disappointment. It was shock. It was disbelief. The dream is over, the dynasty halted before it even got off the ground. The Green Archers’ reign atop the UAAP has ended, at least for now.

    It was a thrilling game that featured nine deadlocks and 10 lead changes up until that point. That 11th lead change would prove to be the last, and the most painful.

    Despite a valiant fightback that saw them wresting the lead from their rivals early in the fourth and carrying it for most of the quarter, the Archers yielded to the FEU Tamaraws, 64-67, on a game-winning three-pointer by Belo that found its mark just as the buzzer sounded earlier tonight at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

    The loss prematurely ends the season for the Archers, who won titles in the UAAP and PCCL last year as well as this summer’s Fil-Oil Flying V Preseason Cup and were tagged as favorites entering this season. The Tamaraws, meanwhile, secured their first Finals berth since 2011. They will be facing the NU Bulldogs, who earlier eliminated Ateneo, in the Finals, which will start this Saturday, October 4.

    A three-pointer by Belo, who finished with 23 points and eight boards, gave the Tamaraws a 64-61 lead with only 1:05 remaining in the game. La Salle, however, was not yet done, as Perkins made one of two from the line to cut the lead to two. After an empty FEU possession, the Archers found themselves on a five-on-four fastbreak and Jeron Teng found Norbert Torres for an easy basket that tied the count at 64 and set up the game’s thrilling, albeit heartbreaking finish.

    With the Tams leading by four entering the fourth, Teng made his presence felt early in the payoff period, scoring on a lay-up, finding rookie Prince Rivero for a bucket, and nailing a jumper that gave La Salle its first lead since early in the contest, 53-51.

    Belo and Tolomia, however, would answer with free throws and a lay-up, respectively, to give FEU the lead. Arnold Van Opstal scored inside for La Salle before Julian Sargent nailed the second of his two three-pointers to give the Archers a 59-55 lead.  But this was when Belo decided to put his team on his shoulders, scoring four points for the Tamaraws to knot the count at 59 with only 3:02 left.

    Norbert Torres missed a couple of free throws but Perkins scored on a basket to give La Salle its last lead, 61-59, with a minute and 54 left. Achie Iñigo, however, scored on a floater to forge the game’s second-to-last deadlock.

    It was Perkins and Rivero who bannered the Archers in the third period, combining for seven of La Salle’s ten points in the quarter. Belo and Anthony Hargrove, however, combined to score seven of FEU’s nine in the period, as they preserved a slim 51-47 lead heading into the fourth.

    Entering the second period with a seven-point deficit, La Salle strung together a 13-2 run to lead by as much as 30-26 with 7:04 left in the second, after a triple by Sargent. FEU, however, countered with a 10-2 blitz of their own, seven of which came from Tolomia, to help them restore a four-point lead. Perkins and Van Opstal scored again for La Salle as they tied the game again at 36, but a Belo triple and an and-one basket by Mon Jose allowed the Tamaraws to take a 42-37 lead at the turn.

    Teng was assertive early in the game for the Archers, pouring nine of his 13 in the first ten minutes, but eight different players scored in the first for FEU as they took a 24-17 lead after one.

    Teng led the Archers with 13 points, four rebounds, and six assists, while Perkins finished with a double-double of 12 points and 12 boards, while also adding two assists. Arnold Van Opsal also finished in double-figures, scoring 11 markers and grabbing five rebounds. Aside from Vosotros, Norbert Torres and Yutien Andrada likewise played their last games donning the Green-and-White.

    Backstopping Belo is Tolomia, who finished with 14 points, six assists, and a rebound, while Roger Pogoy finished with eight points and a team-high 11 boards.

    Overall, the Archers outrebounded the Tamaraws, 44-42, including a 17-13 edge on the offensive glass. Both teams also shot 40% from the floor, shooting well from the two-point area but struggling from the free-throw line, with FEU making only 10 of 20 attempts from the line and La Salle canning only nine of their 23 charities. FEU also had more assists, 17-15, and capitalized on the Archers’ 15 turnovers by scoring 16 turnover points, compared to ten by La Salle.

    FEU- 67- Belo-23, Tolomia-14, Pogoy-8, Iñigo-5, Jose-3, Cruz-3, Tamsi-3, Escoto, Ru.-2, Ugsang-0, Escoto, Ri.-0, Dennison-0, Lee Yu-0

    La Salle- 64- Teng-13, Perkins-12, Van Opstal-11, Sargent-8, Torres, N.-7, Rivero-7, Vosotros-6, Montalbo-0, Torres, T.-0, Bolick-0

    Quarterscores: 24-17, 42-37, 51-47, 67-64


      On Wednesday, the Green Archers will try to accomplish what they did back in 2007.  That is to say that beating a team twice whole season long is way meaningful than getting beat by the same team thrice in the same season.  As we all know back in that championship run seven years ago, the Green Archers have defeated the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles only twice that season but it was all the “when it mattered most” games en route to that spectacular championship season by defeating the mighty University of the East Red Warriors, a team that I personally consider a PBA D-League team masquerading as a UAAP team that time.

      After seeing their dominating performance last Saturday, I cannot blame the whole De La Salle community to be hopeful and positive that this “2 > 3″ slogan will definitely be possible on Wednesday.  To simply put it, all I can say right now is that if this team is fully focused, everything is possible and sky is the limit.  Aside from the 68-56 victory over the Bulldogs last September 13, last Saturday’s victory was one of those matches wherein the Green Archers showed that championship-caliber quality that everyone expected to see this season, both La Salle supporters and those from outside looking in combined.

      Without further ado, here are the talking points that I like to discuss going into this second sudden death game for the Green Archers in the span of four days (in no order of importance, I will put them as I remember them through this writing):

      FEU’s Mental State:
      I think for the first time this season, this is the only FEU defeat wherein they were matched and overplayed wire to wire.  This is also the first time this season that FEU will enter into a game wherein they need to fight for their own lives so the question for me here is how FEU will come out on Wednesday.  Will they come out a tougher team, raring to bounce back after that big defeat to a team I think FEU considered as a team they can beat anytime?  Or will that big defeat leave a huge scar on FEU’s chests and put doubts into their minds that this will be not an easy cake to take on Wednesday?

      I honestly do not know at this point how FEU will show up on Wednesday.  Historically, FEU’s mental toughness has been in question always not just this season but in the past seasons as well when it comes to big games but definitely, Coach Nash Racela has something up in his sleeve ready to turn up and lift the spirits of his wards on Wednesday but I am also confident that our coaching staff will come up prepared also so this will be a good match to see as both teams fight it out for the last finals spot.

      Game Adjustments:
      Last Saturday, I think it was our turn to bring in the adjustments that left FEU thinking how to adjust defensively.  One glaring thing for me was our quickness to attack the basket and not let FEU settle and wait for their defense to set up.  Our big guys knew they have the height advantage and took it to the teeth of FEU’s big guys to battle them also physically.  The team was not tentative as far as decision-making is concerned on the offensive end.  The ball movement was superb, resulting to a 19-10 assist advantage for DLSU.  This was a far cry in our past three games against FEU wherein we allow FEU to settle their help defense inside the paint.

      Another thing that I liked about that win last Saturday was the perimeter guys did not hesitate to throw up those threes whenever they are open.  Julian Sargent started it in the first quarter and then Almond continued it up until the end of the game.  Personally, I am confident with these guys that they can shoot from way deep, it was just about shooting it with confidence and I can, maybe correlate it with how the team approach it coming into the free throw line.  I would like to see the same on Wednesday as those perimeter points definitely help out a lot, forcing FEU to play honest defense all over the court from side to side, not just literally packing the paint with three players, not just to help out defensively on our post plays, but also be ready to get those rebounds.

      Another question for me is if FEU will run more plays on Mike Tolomia on Wednesday.  Last Saturday, FEU literally rode on the shoulders of Mark Belo, which became productive as he scored a career-high I think of 32 points but the good thing there was Tolomia only scored 7 points and La Salle’s defense forced him to just shot for 2/14 from the field (2/10 from way deep).  Personally, I still believe that Mike Tolomia is FEU’s most dangerous player because he cannot just wax hot from anywhere in the court, but also he can make his teammates good as well as he is FEU’s best passer (3.3 apg this season).

      In every game against DLSU this season, FEU normally goes to Mark Belo because they think he is always a mismatch to La Salle’s power forwards and centers.  As you can see, whenever Belo has the ball, he always has that isolation play wherein he attacks La Salle’s defenders at will, resulting to a basket or free throws since he gets fouls from it but last Saturday, our coaching staff did a good job of mixing things up on the defensive end, putting different defenders on Belo, although he scored a lot, it took away the rhythm of the other FEU players on the offensive end.  Normally, FEU is averaging 15 assists a game this season but last Saturday, they were down to just 10 assists, La Salle taking away possibly 10 points at the minimum was big in this game.

      I would also like to see the team playing superb defense, not allowing FEU to make any inside penetrations to fuel their offense.  This is another area where the Green Archers played very well last Saturday.  It did not allow the Tamaraws to move the ball as they normally would.  It resulted to most FEU players taking jumpers off the pick and roll rather than outplaying their La Salle counterparts off the dribble making the Green Archers move from side to side.  Last Saturday, it was DLSU who made FEU move from side to side.  In short, FEU was beaten in their own game and I would like to see how FEU will adjust on the defensive end to address that issue.  As for the Green Archers, for as long as they keep the ball moving and stay aggressive whenever they attack, I think they will get the better end of the calls since DLSU really loves to take it to the paint all the time.

      Another end product of DLSU not allowing FEU to attack the paint at will was the bench points category.  FEU is averaging 28 bench points per game but last Saturday, FEU’s bench only scored 22 and the big point here is Pogoy was only limited to just 2 points.  Comparing it to DLSU, the Green Archers scored 37 bench points with Norbert and Julian leading the charge, combining for 29 of those 37 bench points for the Green Archers.  To make it simple, the ball rotation on both teams really affected this game.  La Salle’s ball rotation allowed them to get the ball to the guys in scoring position faster and the players who get the catch at those positions attack right away, resulting to either a basket, a foul, or both in some cases.

      With all these things in mind, I think the four days gap from last Saturday’s game to Wednesday’s game will involve at lot of adjustments for both teams on both ends of the floor.  FEU has to find a way to get their ball movement going, particularly on how to penetrate and get inside DLSU’s defense.  As for the Green Archers, decision-making will be the key on Wednesday’s game on both ends of the floor still.  If they bring that same aggressiveness on the offensive end and keep the Tamaraws on their toes, the Green Archers will have a very good chance of winning that ball game.  La Salle cannot afford to be tentative offensively since FEU likes to gang it up defensively then run the break for easy baskets.  La Salle still sticks to their inside-outside offensive patterns but this time around, it seemed that the Green Archers did not play afraid to the Tamaraws’ inside defense, battling them toe to toe, strength for strength, just like the way it should be since the Green Archers are the taller team.

      Personally, I expect Wednesday’s game to be a grit and grind one.  I do not see FEU giving up this early and for sure Tolomia will bounce back, just like what Jeron did for the Green Archers last Saturday.  I also see both guys (Tolomia and Teng) to lead their respective charges not just in the intangibles category but also stats-wise so I would like to stress it on this writing that the game on Wednesday will be a battle of other players stepping up to the plate.  Pogoy will be an x-factor for the Tamaraws just like how Jason, Norbert, and Julian will be for the Green Archers.

      I am not saying for La Salle, those three (Jason, Norbert, and Julian) are just the reliable other scorers but I would also like to see the other guys explode like Kib, Thomas, and especially Arnold (to help tenderize those FEU front men and make them even a smaller team) to contribute on Wednesday.  Last Saturday’s win was an all-around effort from everyone and the team surely knows that a repeat performance will be necessary to barge into the finals and give themselves a chance to defend the championship.  Actually, I cannot say sit back and relax at this point.  I’d rather say, help support the team on Wednesday and more importantly, pray hard that the team will come out in tip-top fighting form just like what we saw that Saturday.

      I will say this once again, whatever happens to this team on Wednesday, I will always be behind them all the way.  I hope all La Sallians also carry the same attitude and fervor not just on Wednesday but all the time.


        La Salle 80
        FEU 81

        The reign of the De La Salle Lady Archers has ended. A campaign they began as defending champions concludes with National and Far Eastern, finalists from the previous two seasons, fighting over a lost crown.

        In this one game was an entire season, the strong start and faltering finish, the early hope and late heartbreak. The only Final Four team without a player in the Mythical Five, the Lady Archers had to build a title defence around containment, execution, unselfish play, and perimeter shooting. They finished the season with league bests in assists, turnovers, and perimeter percentages. But three of four would not be enough. In the payoff period of each of their last four games, they lacked an extra defensive gear, and thus was the title lost – in the semi-finals, by one point in overtime.

        There was unfinished business between the old rivals. FEU had ousted the Lady Archers in the Final Four in Seasons 73 and 74, and defeated them in the Season 75 Finals. Last year’s championship was cathartic, but won against an emergent and now dominant NU, as the Lady Tamaraws were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player. And now ousted anew by the same tormentors despite holding a twice-to-beat advantage, a graduating batch of six, perhaps seven, Lady Archers end their last playing year with plenty to think – and drink – about.

        But what a farewell it was. Both teams arrived with a sense of occasion. NU have bludgeoned teams this season but La Salle versus FEU have produced the most absorbing matches. Styles make fights and they did here: the Lady Archers using Miller Ong’s playmaking (nine assists in her final game) to get a balanced attack going early, and FEU going inside to Claire Castro and April Siat. La Salle’s interior defence held for the first ten minutes until a fusillade of perimeter shots from Trisha Piatos and Cass Santos in the second quarter opened up a seven-point lead.

        The Lady Archers carried on brightly after the break and a third straight invitation to the Finals seemed in the post when Santos’ high-flipped reverse swished straight down into the net to give La Salle its largest lead at 11. But bigger leads have been surrendered between these two. The Lady Tamaraws made up some ground with shots from Castro and Jacqueline Tanaman, slowly but methodically closing the deficit to four before Jonah Melendres hit a long jumper at the third quarter buzzer to stop FEU’s charge. She would add another at the start of the fourth, and Piatos would fire a triple; the scoreline at that point read DLSU 55 48 FEU.

        Then with eight minutes left in the final period, the Lady Tamaraws remembered how to play La Salle. Castro powered inside for two then closed out the high post to challenge Santos’ perimeter shots on the other end. Ana Valenzona hit a three to bring FEU to within a single basket; Siat and Tanaman pushed them over the threshold 55-57 before Piatos buried what would be her last triple to take back the lead for La Salle. Alyanna Ong would score the Lady Archers’ next seven points, but La Salle were flagging on the defensive end, allowing Siat, also on her final year, to awaken from a first half in which she had scored a mere two points. FEU clogged the lane and La Salle shot blanks from the outside, allowing Castro and Siat to erase a four-point deficit with forty seconds to go and send the contest into overtime.

        The extra period was five minutes of big shots. La Salle bet on the outside and but left themselves a porous interior. Alyanna Ong hit consecutive open triples as FEU sagged into the paint, but the Lady Archers’ single coverage could not stop Siat, Castro and Tanaman on the inside. With under a minute to go, Miller Ong grabbed a rebound off a Siat miss, passed to Piatos whose bullet threaded two Tamaraws to find Claro at pace for a fastbreak layup, a play worthy of winning any series. But Siat came off FEU’s final timeout to hit a long jumper from the left to tie the game yet again.

        With half a minute to go, Valenzona sent Piatos to the line. The second free throw was short. Siat claimed the rebound, jogged into the lane, and with a final quick step to the left, banked a high shot over Alyanna Ong’s outstretched arms. FEU’s biggest lead all game? Two points. Their lead with nine seconds left: one.

        Piatos pushed the champions upcourt for a final go, drew a double team then fed #5 in the left corner. But this time there would be no Camille Claro semi-final special. The three-point attempt looped a foot short of the rim against a challenge, and team captain Miller Ong, trying to save the ball and La Salle’s season one last time, crashed into an amateur photog behind the sideline hoarding as the buzzer sounded. “I have loved watching you play,” he whispered to her.

        Player of the game: Thirty-four minutes fighting off bigger defenders, finding screens, pressing the backcourt, pushing the tempo. On her farewell game before applying to medical school to fulfill a daughter’s promise: five three-pointers, five assists, zero turnovers. A final play, passing the ball – the torch – to sophomore Camille Claro, who like her scored 18. Claro has the look of a proper La Salle guard, and a taste for the big games. But that is talk for another year. For now, stow the camera, pour out a double, stop all the clocks. Trisha Piatos has left the building.


          I don’t know for certain if in between poring through the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche and Viktor Frankl, or getting giddy about film masterpieces such as Cinema Paradiso, Coach Juno Sauler has read Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball, wherein Isiah Thomas reveals the secret of basketball to be more than just about basketball.

          But every time I’ve seen this La Salle team execute a 40-minute master class in championship-caliber hoops, it sure seems like Coach Sauler keeps that secret– whose foundation lies in everything that weaves a team together through thick and thin to keep it focused and hungry–neatly folded right in his back pocket.

          During Saturday’s win over the FEU Tamaraws to force a knockout game for a finals berth, the ball movement that remained quick and purposeful the entire game; the disciplined floor spacing that allowed aggressive post moves, open shooters or clear lanes for off the dribble baskets; the decisive movement off the ball; and the team rebounding and defense anchored on communication and judicious help all may have seemed like a welcome relief to the faint of heart but is nothing really new to a team whose every nuance has been predicated on solidarity from day one.

          Being fortunate to have seen up close the inner workings of this team a handful of times, right after big wins or during stretches when the faith of its community seems fragile, there may have been slight changes in expression and body language due to frustration and momentary lapses but the collective movement towards a common purpose has never been deterred.

          As much as every single member of this unit loves playing the game, they love playing it with each other. It should be no surprise for a team with a head coach whose very first move was to house them all together. And because there is not an ounce of energy nor a single movement or breath wasted on the frivolous for this La Salle team, the payoff is always just the icing on the cake.

          Winning the title the first time was simply proving to the rest of us that this system worked. Long before the temporary struggles of last year’s first round ensued, every single player was on board even before stepping onto the hard court, with even both Jeron Teng and Almond Vosotros later exuding gratitude and heaving praises on a system that seemed nonexistent to most with then a 3-4 record and a string of meltdown games. All ancient history by now, it seems.

          But it’s been no different this year, despite all the subpar games that fell way below our lofty expectations and overbearing anticipation for a powerhouse team to dominate and make us all champions once again, only this time in a more comfortable manner. As always, marching to their own unique beat orchestrated by a coach who is equal parts mentor and brother-in-arms, there has never been any need to rise above–or hide underneath–all the hype and noise generated externally.

          Because they’ve all never bothered to pretend to be anything they’re not: never athletic demigods thriving on attention, but simply blessed individuals given the rare opportunity to represent a revered institution with a proud community. Nothing more, nothing less.

          When we see Jeron Teng’s continuous evolution as a complete player and a relentless offensive machine–along with his development as a leader much more than a celebrity who could have just been content with the warm fuzzy glow of the spotlight to smugly shrug off all criticism–I can see a few of the roots of this maturation in a conversation between him and Coach Sauler held in the MOA arena locker room on the day before last year’s title-clinching game regarding a recently held preseason NBA match. Just two fans of the game on equal footing sharing the love.

          Or when we see even increased trust and constant playing minutes given to an obviously struggling and frustrated Arnold Van Opstal–even during crucial stretches of a knockout game-the exact same one given to a previously slumping Vosotros—it’s quite clear that freely giving that trust is its own reward, so much more than the payoff of having last year’s most improved player nearly matching the rebounding output of FEU’s starting frontline.

          With head coach and quirky center turning into fanboys talking about the availability of tickets to a much anticipated event featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers shortly after bagging last year’s PCCL title, it’s really the unshakeable bonds created within this team that is the greatest prize, with titles just inevitable bonuses picked up along the way.

          Pressure-packed games expectedly bring out one’s true character. While I continue to believe that below the belt hit on Teng or all the Tamaraws suddenly pulling each other away animatedly to prevent any helping hand for any Lasallian momentarily down on the floor were all just products of frustration and incidental loss of composure, the Green Archers seem to thrive on adversity and never use it as an excuse. Always only an opportunity to let their true character shine.

          And it’s a type of character founded on all the simple things that lie just beyond the fringes of statistical sheets or equations. Because while we can rightfully churn out numbers for player efficiencies per predetermined number of minutes played, or proportion of free throws taken to number of bizarre fouls committed when the game is clearly out of reach, there are no numbers to fully give justice to the amount of trust easily handed to a player struggling all season; density of joy showered upon this season’s crowd favorite finally getting his first point of his UAAP career; or fierceness of game face such as that of the usually stoic Vosotros, raising his hands towards the Lasallian faithful in attendance after nailing his third three-pointer of the game.

          Faith is also one of those ethereal things that is always hard to measure, or stack up against what every other team and community has. All I know is there is something greater than what transpires on the hard court which binds both this team and the zealous community it represents. And it never remains otherworldy or elusive, constantly enacted in the arena and beyond.

          From Assistant Coach Allan Caidic giving me a confident, bemused look as if I committed blasphemy by trepidly asking about the team’s mood in a still generally empty arena during one of our fortuitous encounters; or younger Sauler brother (and reportedly better basketball player) Nino assuredly replying as we were filing in that this definitely wouldn’t be the last game of these champions we were about to witness, I can always count on one thing.

          With passion forged by many years of past glory and struggle, and faith nurtured and polished off with a dignified quality on 2401 Taft Avenue, our footing remains secure all the same whether in triumph or defeat.

          Certifying that on any given game day, when the Green Archers hold court, from the bench to the courtside seats and way up to the vertigo-inducing sections, if you’re clad in Green and White, there will always be more than enough faith and love to go around.


            For all of the adjustments on offense and defense: better player and ball movement, snappy execution of set plays, limiting one of the opponent’s top player and taking better care of the ball, it was the intangibles that allowed the DLSU Green Archers to finally get back at their season tormentors, the FEU Tamaraws.

            Finally there was a sense of urgency, purpose and desperation that was lacking in three previous losses. Vision and unselfishness allowed the ball to move around and find the open man as 28 made field goals came from 19 assists. Relentless desire to extend their season, especially the UAAP careers of the team’s senior players resulted in a complete mismatch in the battle of rebounds, 54-41.

            Man-made or by acts of nature, there were no more excuses when the UAAP game no. 60 could have easily been the Green Archers’ last game in Season 77. Honestly, there were some doubts to whether La Salle could negate the Tams’ twice-to-beat-advantage, but with courageous hearts and championship pride, the Green and White squad came out of the gates swinging. Their subliminal message through 40 minutes of inspired play was clear: don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.

            The spotlight was on Jeron Teng as he came back from a sub-par performance last week with 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists. But at the post game interview, the Season 76 MVP added an unaccounted assist as he dedicated the team’s effort to the team’s graduating players: Norbert Torres, Almond Vosotros and Yutien Andrada.

            That the Bear and Almond combined for 35 points, 15 rebounds and six assists only showed this is not yet the time to close the UAAP chapter of their basketball careers. Rookie Julian Sargent made three 3-point shots in a two-minute span to jumpstart the Green and White offense. From then on, La Salle only got stronger as the lead went up to as much as 25 points, enabling coach Juno Sauler and his boys to get one more opportunity to go to the Finals.

            Could not have scripted it better
            The US fall television schedule had already started with series and season premiers this past week. While casual viewers curiously tune-in and hardcore fans welcome their beloved shows and characters back, on the local scene, nothing compares to the action, drama and a little dose of reality competition that the UAAP brings especially now that both Final Four series are tied at one game a piece.

            Where else can you find a plot to a Final Four series like the one the DLSU Green Archers and FEU Tamaraws have so far? A week ago, Typhoon Mario, a Dengue-carrying mosquito and an underwear fashion show was all the talk of the media, Lasallian and UAAP communities. Five days of seemingly living under a rock with a gag order to boot, and the Taft-based squad defeats their Morayta counterparts for the first time in four tries this season and extend the series to a rubber match.

            That the win was in blowout fashion, 21 points, somehow makes up for the wasted chances the Archers allowed to get away in their two elimination round losses (77-82, 70-74) and last week during the playoff for the number two seed and twice-to-beat advantage, 60-65.

            So dominant were the Green Archers that frustration set in to whole FEU bench. Pro wrestling style unsportsman-like fouls: a blow to Prince Rivero’s head by Francis Tamsi and a blatant low blow by Ron Dennison to a driving Jeron Teng have no place in collegiate basketball. Unable to stop La Salle’s offense, FEU head coach Nash Racela was left to plea with the referees for unmerited calls and ghost violations.

            After getting a technical foul called for excessive complaining during the third period, Racela was in no mood end the game even if his team was down by 23 points with less than three minutes to go in the final period. He instructed his players to foul at will, first on Arnold Van Opstal then the La Salle guards to try to trim the Archers’ big lead. It was a case of too little, too late for FEU as DLSU was able to sink 8 from 16 free throws attempts.

            Be careful what you wish for
            FEU star guard Mike Tolomia, after their win last Sunday, mentioned his preference to face La Salle in the Final Four this year because the Green Archers have booted out his team out of the title contention for the past two seasons. Averaging more than 21 points in three games against DLSU this season, the coaching staff and La Salle defenders had other plans for the King Tamaraw for this crucial match, holding Tolomia to seven points, making only two field goals from 14 attempts for the entire game.

            Tolomia’s 19-point, eight-rebound production in the playoff game was nowhere to be found this time with only forward Mark Belo scoring in double-digits with 32 points and a single rebound. Intentional or not, the ploy of letting Belo shoot the lights out limited the contribution of the other Tamaraws, especially the trio of Carl Cruz, Roger Pogoy and Achi Inigo who combined for 13 points.

            Statistics of the game
            46 free throw attempts. Even in a blowout win, the Green Archers still managed to put up a Season 77 league-high number of attempts from the charity stripe. The hack-an-Archer employed by the Tams in the closing moments surely helped balloon the number of attempts. Good thing La Salle was able to capitalize, making 75% (18/24) in the first three quarters and managing to convert a respectable 12/22 in the last canto.

            From DLSU’s 93 total points, 30 came the free throws, 36 from mid to outside shots with only 28 scored from the paint. The adjustment in offense was clear. The playoff lost can be attributed to a stubborn approach to pound the paint, then kick the ball out off the double team. In this win, the Archers utilized the high and side pick-and-rolls more to initiate their offense and together with better ball movement made La Salle less predictable when they had the ball.

            Once Norbert, AVO or Jason got the ball in the post, they were more patient to find the cutting players or open shooters. Jeron may have been the game’s top scorer but my man of the match was The Bear. Coming off the bench, it was clear that Norbert did not want this game to be his last in a Green Archer uniform and finished with a highly efficient stat line of 18 points from 6/9 shooting, seven rebounds and two assists in only 18 minutes.

            The bench also came alive, outscoring the FEU reserves, 37-22, a far cry from last game’s 11 total points. Despite catching up on his conditioning and actual game speed, Thomas Torres, in limited minutes provided stability in the point guard position. Not easily rattled when trapped in either a full-court or half-court traps, Thomas’ excellent grasp of the offense and spunk on defense were the secret ingredients sorely missed during the five La Salle losses this season.

            As it was like the playoff loss last week, it will be in the best interest of the Green Archers to again set their 100% focus on Wednesday’s rubber match. Entertain no thoughts on going to the Finals against either Ateneo or NU, nor a chance for back-to-back titles. Rest, practice and prepare for one of the most important games of the season, playing and living with the mantra uttered by the great Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovic almost 20 years ago: “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”


              Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

              It could have ended today, on a hot Saturday afternoon, in the same place where it started, against a team that was a puzzle they were yet to solve, a code they were yet to crack. On the heels of a stunning loss by the national team and an equally painful overtime loss by another defending champion, the Lady Archers.

              Six days ago, this same team walked off the floor of the Mall of Asia Arena with bowed heads and slumped shoulders after a third straight loss against the Tamaraws, their performance raising more questions rather than providing answers. The final horn sounded much earlier, and yet another game was still being played, one which lasted for several days and is played with anger and features a whole lot of finger-pointing.

              It could have ended today. This team could, in the words of poet Dylan Thomas, have gone quietly into that good night, although nights would be anything but good if that actually happened.

              It could have ended today. But it didn’t.

              On the brink of elimination, the Green Archers responded with one of their finest performances in Season 77, thrashing the FEU Tamaraws, 94-73, in their UAAP Final Four match earlier today. The win, which was La Salle’s first against FEU this season, forces a sudden-death match between the teams for the right to enter the Finals, which will be played this Wednesday.

              After struggling for just eight points on a dismal 2-for-9 shooting during the last game, Jeron Teng drove for buckets, to fish for fouls, and even nailed a couple of threes to finish with 25 points, seven boards, and three assists. A couple of graduating players likewise delivered solid performances, as Norbert Torres added 18 points, seven caroms, and two assists, while Almond Vosotros finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

              Right from the opening tip, the Archers made it known that they were here to play, as they started the game by making their first few shots from the perimeter. Vosotros drilled a three to make it 11-7 early, but FEU’s Mac Belo made a couple of buckets to trim the lead to two. But La Salle uncorked a 12-5 run to end the quarter, anchored on three triples from Julian Sargent and baskets by Teng and Norbert Torres.

              Torres continued the onslaught early in the second, but a thunderous dunk by Hargrove and back-to-back triples by Belo and Mike Tolomia cut the La Salle lead to just six-, 28-22, forcing La Salle coach Juno Sauler to sue for time.  Vosotros answered with a three for the Archers, but Tolomia and Belo further trimmed their lead, as a steal and a fastbreak dunk by the latter brought FEU to within four, 27-31. Teng padded La Salle’s lead with his first triple though, as the Archers entered the break ahead by seven, 34-27.

              Teng poured in 11 of his 25 in the third, most of which came from an array of drives to the basket and free throws. In all, the Archers received 20 free throws in the period, making 16, while the Tamaraws only had six and could only muster 20 points in the period to La Salle’s 29. Three unsportsmanlike fouls were called in the quarter, one on Francis Tamsi for elbowing Rivero during a rebound play, one for FEU Coach Nash Racela, and another one on Ron Dennison after a hard foul on Teng.

              By the fourth quarter, Belo decided to put his entire team on his shoulders, scoring their first seven points in the period, the last on a charity to bring them to within 16, 70-54. Vosotros, Teng, and Norbert Torres, however, nailed baskets of their own to stymie every FEU rally heading into the game’s final minutes.

              With 2:44 left and the Archers up 85-62, the Tamaraws resorted to fouling Arnold Van Opstal in an attempt to cut into the lead without burning a lot of time. Van Opstal only made two of the six free throws awarded to him, while players like Matt Salem, Thomas Torres, Kib Montalbo, and Terrence Mustre were likewise sent to the line, and they made a total of seven of their 12 attempts, with a free throw by Torres bringing the lead to its largest, 91-66, with a little over a minute left.

              Belo finished with a career-high 32 points on an 11-of-20 shooting, while also adding two dimes, but was the only Tamaraw in double-figures. Tolomia, who entered the game averaging 21 points against the Archers, groped for form and finished with just seven on a 2-for-14 shooting clip.

              Overall, La Salle shot 42% from the field while holding down the Tamaraws to just 35%. The La Salle big men outrebounded their counterparts, 54-41 (17-12 on the offensive glass), and had more assists, 19-10. The Archers likewise got a huge offensive lift from their bench, which scored 37 points to the Tamaraws’ 22.

              Notes: Thomas Torres scored his first points since coming back from injury, scoring from the free throw line at the 1:14 mark of the fourth. Mustre, meanwhile, scored his first point in the UAAP as well, swishing a free throw with 1:03 left.

              For the Finals: The Green Archers will gun for their second straight Finals berth this Wednesday, October 1. Game time is at 6pm at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

              The Scores:

              DLSU -94 – Teng-25, Torres, N.-18, Vosotros-17, Sargent-11, Perkins-8, Van Opstal-4, Montalbo-3, Torres, T.-3, Rivero-2, Salem-2, Mustre-1, Andrada-0

              FEU- 73 – Belo-32, Tolomia-7, David-7, Iñigo- 6, Tamsi- 6, Jose- 5, Cruz- 4, Pogoy-2, Hargrove-2, Ugsang-2, Lee Yu-0, Dennison-0, Escoto-0, Delfinado-0, Denila-0

              Quarterscores: 24-14, 34-27, 63-47, 94-73