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  1. #11
    ^ This is how it was for De La Salle in UAAP Season 81.

    It came down to a knockout game between them and FEU to decide which of them would face eventual champion Ateneo in the Final 4.

    Losing their beefy 6-8 import for 12 games was just too telling a blow, and having a rookie head coach in Louie Gonzalez didn't help.

    "Ikaw ba naman mawalan ng magaling na 6-8 siguro naman mahirapan ka din," said Mr Libog, over our usual weekend lunch, a few days after Taane Samuel suffered a Jones Fracture in their first game and was declared out for several weeks.

    Turns out there was a heck of a silver lining to that, as Justin Baltazar, another 6-8 big man, went on to have a career season, capped with making the Mythical 5.

    "Magaling naman talaga si Baltazar," Mr Libog asserted. "Kung sa UST or UE nagpunta 'yan baka nag-ROY pa nga 'yan, baka second or third time na niya sa Mythical 5."

    The writing on the wall however became clear and unequivocal when it turned out the Final 4 cast was made up of the same teams La Salle couldn't beat or had a hard time with in the elimination rounds.

    "Coincidence ba na 'yung Top 4 teams sila din 'yung mga tumalo sa La Salle? Coincidence ba na first time yata in 10 years na na-season sweep ng U.P. ang La Salle," asked Mr Libog, rhetorically I gathered.

    "Huwag na nga 'yung Ateneo, siempre bigay na natin 'yon, unfair din naman na may (Angelo) Kouame kalaban mo tapos ikaw nabawasan ka pa ng Taane. Pero FEU, Adamson, lalo na U.P., ganun-ganun lang ba na mas magaling silang lahat sa La Salle? Parang may mali eh..." he continued to muse.

    "Meron kang Baltazar, (Leonard) Santillan, even (Brandon) Bates isn't bad, better than AVO (former Green Archer Arnold Van Opstal), siguro naman dapat kaya mo sina (Arvin) Tolentino, sina (Sean) Manganti, sina (Juan) Gomez de Liano," he continued.

    It takes more than size and skill to win a championship said I.

    "Yeah right," he sniggered.

    So how did La Salle not make the Final 4?

    "Their perimeter is weak: Aljun (Melecio) is a mad bomber, (Andrei) Caracut never really panned out, Kib (Montalbo) is not a real point guard," he explained. "So sino magbibigay ng bola sa big men nila? Kahit pa gano kagaling mga big men mo, someone has to get the ball to them kasi hindi naman Kevin Durant ang mga 'yan, someone has to get them the ball, like Matt (Nieto) to Kouame."

    "Kasalanan ba ni Gonzalez na hindi mabigyan ng bola big men niya? Baka naman hindi talaga kasi ganun mga guards niya. None of their guards grew up as creators or facilitators, unlike Matt."

    Compelling, but perhaps not complete as an explanation.

    Gonzalez is not exactly a big name in coaching, but surely he must know his basketball, as he has been around for a while.

    "Ayan ka na naman. Coach na naman? Ano ba magagawa ng coach pag hindi gumana players?" Mr Libog continued. "Sunod na sasabihin mo, genius na naman si Tab (Baldwin) ninyo, haha!"

    And so there we have it.

    What's next for them then?

    "When Taane comes back and they have (Tyus) Hill, (Jordan) Bartlett, and (Kurt) Lojera onboard ibang team na 'yan, guaranteed."

    With that he picked up the check.

  2. #12

    De La Salle University opened its 13th FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup with a bang by crushing University of Santo Tomas, 72-49, in opening day action Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre. It was a fitting beginning as the new look Green Archers turned up the heat in the second period behind team captain Andrei Caracut and never looked back. READ MORE

  3. #13
    Lasalle closed Round 1 of Season 82 at 3-4, exactly as a friend of mine predicted his team would go. Is he psychic? Probably. More likely, he's just seen his team in its many iterations and figured out what a lot of people did not, could not, or simply would not: Lasalle has a lot of talent, quality size, plus athleticism across most of their board. Unfortunately, a lot of that talent is taking quite a while to come together as a real team.

    "Ikaw ba naman magdala ng tatlong one-done, na turns out isa lang pala dun ang magaling," remarked Mr. Libog in between helpings of stir-fried spinach and garlic and deep fried whole pompano. "Sinabi ko naman sa iyo 'di ba? Kelangan kasing-galing nina Danny Seigle, Stanley Pringle, at Raymond Almazan ang tatlong 'yon para sure champ ang Lasalle. Ano ba totoong nangyari?"

    Only Jamie (Orme) Malonzo is good, Keys Meeker and James Laput aren't much, or at least haven't been getting minutes befitting their one-done status.

    "Kasi nga si Orme lang naman totoong magaling sa kanilang tatlo," he retorted.

    That's because they haven't gotten minutes, said I.

    "Pare, tingin mo ba kung kunwari 'yung Meeker iniiwan lang sina (Jordan) Bartlett, sina (Kurt) Lojera, sina Aljun (Melecio), ganun ba ka-tanga coach niya na hindi siya ibababad? Or si Laput, kunwari pinapakain lang niya ng bola sina (Justin) Baltazar, sina (Brandon) Bates, hindi ba siya ibababad nung coach?" he asked rhetorically.

    I mused over those thoughts and figured, he may have a point there.

    "Huwag mo na pagisipan, alam mo na sagot dun, haha!" he said as he took a big gulp of his diet soda.

    So what is in store for them in Round 2?

    "I wouldn't be surprised kung sila makalaban ng Ateneo mo sa Finals," he boldly predicted.

    "What!? You just said they sucked!" I answered, totally discombobulated.

    "I said no such thing. Sabi ko lang, hindi pa sila totoong team, pero tignan mo pa din lineup nila. 'Yang Orme tingin ko pag nagpa-draft 'yan, huwag lang may kasabay siyang malaki na magaling, sure ako siya Number 1 pick. Nakita mo ba ginawa niyang dunk kay Thirdy? 'Yang Balti at Bates, don't tell me kung draft ngayon unahin mo sa kanila sina Isaac (Go) at Will (Navarro), hindi siguro. Alam mo kung san lang ako duda? Dun sa Aljun at Andrei (Caracut), kasi mukhang maraming gustong gawin ang dalawa bago sila matapos sa Lasalle,. If ever sumablay ang prediction ko, silang dalawa dapat sisihin, Kasi alangan naman si Orme, or si Balti, or even si Encho (Serrano), or si Tyrus Hill, so obviously kung sumablay ang Lasalle, 'yang dalawang beteranong mad bombers nila dapat sisihin," he concluded.

    So what will their Round 2 look like?

    "Tingin ko 6-1, siempre kay (Angelo) Kouame lang sila mahihirapan, the rest tingin ko kaya naman nila, hindi nila lalamunin ha, pero kaya naman nila. UP cannot defend, Adamson is too dependent on (Valandre) Chauca, UST is 99% (Soulemane) Chabi Yo, FEU nakachamba lang sa kanila. Again ha, maybe hindi nila lalamunin, pero sure ako kaya naman nila kung matchup - matchup lang."

    Hang on to your green and white hats, folks.

    Mr Libog has a heck of a batting average.

  4. #14
    "I fucking hate you," said I.

    Mr Libog didn't even stop stuffing his gob with the excellently charred brick oven pizza with prosciutto and arugula as he asked, "What the fuck is your problem now?"

    "We didn't make the spread on the last game goddam it!" I exclaimed exasperatedly.

    "Its sports betting, you know, legal gambling but still gambling, by definition that is never a sure thing. If you want a sure thing, try stocks and futures," and he took a swig of his Diet Coke.

    The Ateneo won by eight points over Lasalle over the weekend, and our inveterate book makers gave us a spread of... a little more than that. As we were both inclined to think the Ateneo would walk all over Lasalle, much like their first round encounter, we put money on the Blue Eagles.

    "Its that so-called genius coach of yours, you know, that Tab Baldwin, he doesn't post (Angelo) Kouame up much, preferring that ridiculous pasa-pasa, ikot-bola bullshit. If he had actually trained Kouame the way (former Ateneo head coach Norman) Black trained Rabeh (Al-Hussaini) I swear to you Kouame would eat every frontline in the UAAP alive, every goddam frontline. But your guy doesn't want to do it that way, he thinks basketball is a team game where the, what was it he said? The 16th guy is just as important as the starting 5? God... what utter and absolute bullshit." And this time he was having at the very flavorful pasta tartuffo with vodka cream sauce.

    "What the hell is it with you and Tab anyway? Did he used to date your sister? Hindi si (Lawrence) Chongson 'yan ha," I protested.

    "I never said he was. And I would even go so far as to say he absolutely knows his stuff, certainly I might even say he's a good coach. Pero alam mo naman ang tingin ko sa coaches 'di ba? No such thing as a genius coach. Tab is not a genius coach, even Norman is not a genius coach," he said.

    We've had this conversation many times before of course, and I was wondering how this turned up in a discussion over the last Ateneo-Lasalle game.

    "If he was a real genius should he not go to his best player, all the time? Si Phil Jackson nga, kahit si Pat Riley, or si Greg Popovich, they always give credit and mention their superstars like Shaq (O'Neal), Kobe (Bryant), Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan. How come Tab, when he has an interview, barely mentions any of his guys. If I had Kouame on my team, I would never bullshit the media: I'd tell them straight that 99% of the reason we're winning is because of Kouame. Hindi nga tayo halos maka-shoot pag nakaupo si Kouame eh, wala din tayo taga-gulo sa loob para hindi maka-shoot mga kalaban pag wala si Kouame. So ano pa silbi nung hocky assist at nung playing the right way na parati niyang binibida? Isaac (Go) was what, 15% from three-point range before the UP game? I thought Tab turned him into the finest stretch 5 in the league? 15%? We're near the bottom in terms of offense, where are all the baskets that are supposed to come from the 'Tab System' that everyone raves about? Don't tell me it only works on defense, because the reason we're at the top on defense is because our import blocks more shots than entire teams, and changes even more shots than he blocks just by being on the floor. I doubt that has anything to do with any system." As he once again went through his litany.

    I was waiting for him to get to the point.

    "So if he had trained Kouame and gone to him, the way Phil went to Shaq, Kouame would probably be averaging an easy 25 and 15 to go with his 4 blocks. He would've gotten an easy 30 and 20 against Lasalle, for sure. He's 7-feet, maybe 260 pounds, and he's gotten stronger and faster. Ano gagawin ng Lasalle para pigilan siya, ubusin mga fouls nina (Justin) Baltazar, (Brandon) Bates, kahit nung bulok na (James) Laput? (Jamie) Malonzo nga fouled out eh. You wanna know why we lost that bet? Because your coach is not a genius, worse, he's stubborn, and probably a little ego-driven, meaning Ateneo has to win because of Tab and Tab's System, not because of Angelo Kouame," he emphasized.

    "That's not a fair accusation. You can't argue with success, right?" said I.

    "Of course, 10-0, sinong gago magsasabing mali si Tab? Pero you were asking why we didn't win the bet. The answer is simple: Tab has to win HIS way." he responded.

    "So what about Lasalle, what happens to them now? They have five games to go, three against teams that beat them in Round 1," I asked.

    "Kaya na nila mga 'yon. Kaya nila mawalis mga huling laro nila. Sana lang hindi atakihin ng katangahan coach nila, or sapian na naman ng espirito ng bwakaw at bayani basketball 'yun dalawang maliit nila (Andrei Caracut and Aljun Melecio). Huwag na nila pahirapan sarili nila, pahawak bola kay (Jordan) Bartlett, gawin lang catch-shoot sina Melecio at Caracut. Kung may magandang cut si (Encho) Serrano, sige bigay sa kanya. Bigyan din sa poste si Balti. Hayaan na din nila na mag-roam si Malonzo, kasi kaya naman nun gumawa na sarili lang niya," he enumerated.

    He added quickly, "They still have quality size, good athletes, guys who can shoot the three, and they run well as a team. Even Wacky (Manuel) is a useful, heady type. Its all up to them if they want to simplify the game or overthink it just because they need to win their remaining games."

    The Ateneo can basically lose all four of its remaining games and be - at worst - the second seed in a Final 4 scenario, meaning they still get twice-to-beat. But no one is betting on the Blue Eagles losing ANY games at all.

    Lasalle still has the tools, the depth, and the weapons to make a big, hard push for the Finals, but they need to play to their strengths and put this last loss behind them.

    "Ateneo-Lasalle Finals pa din tingin ko," was Mr Libog's parting shot as he finished the last of the rich tiramisu.

  5. #15
    "A 21-point blowout and a balls-crushing one-point escape act. These guys are going to make the Finals, really?" I ask incredulously.

    "Bakit, pwede pa ngang magkaron ng four-way tie sa 8-6 'di ba? If that happens baka Lasalle pa top seed sa apat na 'yan if ever," Mr Libog retorted.

    "Well why didn't I think of that? All they have to do is beat UP, right? Easy as pie, a cakewalk, nothing to it at all," said I.

    "Look, nung Round 1 nadale sila ni Juan (Gomez De Liano), but they had that game pretty much in the bag. You think UP can do that to them TWICE?" he asked.

    "They haven't exactly played up to your expectations. You did say kaya nilang 6-1 sa Round 2. They've got six losses now already, one more loss and that ought to be pretty much their season," said I.

    "Whatever. If the goal is to beat UP, I think they can do it. Again ha, dapat lang hindi larong tanga. Tsaka dapat 100% healthy silang lahat, wala nung may lagnat si (Justin) Baltazar tapos pinaglalaro nila," said he.

    "You know Aljun Melecio and Andrei Caracut haven't exactly been playing well..." I began.

    He cut that train of thought right quick, "Eh 'di iupo ni (head coach Jermaine) Byrd kung nagkakalat. May Jordan Bartlett ka, bakit ka naman magtitiis sa dalawang beterano kung nagkakalat?"

    "Suppose there's orders to make sure the two veterans get the majority of minutes?" I asked.

    "What idiot in his right mind would order something like that when your team is fighting for its playoff life in a field this tight?" he asked right back.

    I just shrugged.

    "Look, we all know Lasalle has the personnel and the depth to do better than they have. Huwag na nila sabihin na kesyo late kasi dumating mga 1-done nila. (Jamie) Malonzo was the last to arrive and he's getting major minutes and producing good stats. So that 'arrived late' bullshit is just that, bullshit. Maybe the other two guys aren't really as big of a difference as they thought, but Malonzo is the real deal. Meron pa silang Balti. Bates isn't bad, mobile, long, active big man naman eh. Encho Serrano and Kurt Lojera can contribute too. But they have to stop dicking about and simplify the game for themselves and I'm sure they can still make the Finals," he explained at length.

    Mr Libog doth speak the truth, and yet with their current record, these Green Archers are proving to be very underwhelming. None of the other contenders is actually quaking in their boots when facing them, and FEU simply ran them into the ground. UST also almost ended their season. How much do these guys have left in the tank?

    "it isn't about what is left in the tank, not with them, maybe with UP, sure, kasi nga heavily depending on talent. Pero itong Byrd mukhang may totoong gustong mangyari naman eh, its just that he may dealing with other bullshit kaya hirap din siya dumiskarte. But if we're talking about matching up, kaya naman nila eh," he said.

    "So... you still think they'll make the Finals?" I asked.

    "I'd bet money on it," and that was his last word.

  6. #16
    After another elims exit, Aljun Melecio to follow Ayo’s advice to heart

    Published 6 hours ago

    on October 27, 2019

    By Lorenzo del Carmen

    Tiebreaker Times

    ANTIPOLO — The harsh reality is that for the second straight year, La Salle will only be a bystander while four teams ahead of them compete in the UAAP Men’s Basketball Final Four.

    This could all have been preventable for the Taft school, but this year became a series of unfortunate events for the proud program. Tough breaks in game-winners from UE’s Rey Suerte and UP’s Juan Gomez de Liaño struck them in the first round, while the Green Archers failed to execute their final play properly in their season-defining game versus the Fighting Maroons.

    Down by just two points, a good defensive stop allowed La Salle to gain possession with seconds left on the game clock. Unfortunately, main playmaker Aljun Melecio then tripped and lost possession. His teammate Encho Serrano got the ball, but he failed to convert as La Salle eventually lost 68-71 to UP, Sunday.

    “’Di mo rin masabi kasi nandun naman si Kobe, si Ricci, nagbaba rin sila, so alam mo naman na grabe silang mag-block ng fastbreak shots. So hindi mo talaga masabi. Tinry ko naman talaga na hindi madapa, pero nadapa talaga,” lamented the 5-foot-8 guard.

    When the final buzzer sounded, La Salle’s fate was sealed. Meanwhile, their opponents basked in the delight of earning a twice-to-beat advantage for the first time in school history. From being champions in Season 79, it has been misery after misery for the Green Archers.

    “Parehas masakit kasi ‘di kami nakaabot sa Final Four, pero andun pa rin ‘yung sinabi sa ‘kin dati ni Coach Aldin (Ayo) na kung may masamang nangyari sa ‘yo, i-cherish mo lang ‘yon. Hawakan mo ‘yon tapos ‘dun ka kumuha ng lakas ng loob, kasi ‘yung mga struggles mo, magiging inspirasyon ‘yun sa ‘yo at magagamit mo ‘yon sa buhay mo.”

    One of the saddest ramifications of this situation, though, is that the likes of Encho Serrano, Brandon Bates, and Joaqui Manuel have not tasted what it is to play in the post-season. This just goes to show how bad things have been for the Green and White ever since they relinquished their crown in 2017.

    “Hindi ganoon kadali. Two years na silang nasa UAAP, so alam na nila ngayon kung gaano kahirap makapasok sa Final Four,” shared the former De La Salle Zobel standout.

    Now that everything is said and done, Melecio only feels regret after another wasted campaign for the Green Archers. Just like all failures, all these setbacks only yield lessons that must be heeded.

    “Hindi lang naman UP. Next year, we’ll try to win, especially ‘yung sa round one. Masakit ‘yung sa UE eh. Next season, every game conts talaga kasi sa round two, kahit isang game lang, malaking bagay eh. ‘Yun ‘yung naging lesson.”

  7. #17
    Andrei Caracut has no regrets despite disappointing finale

    Published 10 hours ago

    on October 27, 2019

    By Lorenzo del Carmen

    Tiebreaker Times

    ANTIPOLO — After everything was said and done, Andrei Caracut’s emotions simply flowed out to sum up the situation for himself and the rest of La Salle.

    Needing a win to maintain their push for a post-season ticket in the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament, La Salle instead succumbed, 68-71, to University of the Philippines, Sunday at the Ynares Center.

    “Wala eh. Ganun talaga — may natatalo, may nananalo,” commented the one-time UAAP champion.

    “Hindi ko rin alam kung ano nangyari after ng game.. Parang ito na naman, wala na naman kami sa Final Four. Sayang, sayang.”

    At a personal level, the game was a dismal affair for Caracut.

    The former San Beda Red Cub was not his usual self. He failed to tally a point, contributed three rebounds and an assist, but then committed five turnovers throughout 19 minutes of play. Moreover, he was a minus-21 in 19 minutes of game time.

    “May sakit ako since UE game… Basta after Ateneo, and then tuloy-tuloy hanggang ngayon, pero hindi ko naman ginagawang excuse ‘yun. Binigay ko naman ‘yung best ko kanina. Siguro nandun din ‘yung hina, siguro hindi lang din ako nakasabay sa game. Siguro ‘yung turnovers, siguro yun,” the 23-year-old disclosed.

    “Nabigay ko naman ‘yung best ko.”

    And so the final buzzer rang.

    Caracut and the rest of the Green Archers were guests of the Fighting Maroons’ party while UP celebrated getting a twice-to-beat advantage for the first time in the Final Four era.

    On the flipside, the painful truth was that La Salle has missed out on the post-season for the second straight year — the first time in school history.

    “Alam mo ‘yun, parang binigay mo na din ‘yung best mo so hindi naman ako nagsisisi.

    “Pero ‘yun nga, may mga games na sayang talaga, siningil kami sa huli. ‘Yun lang. Ganun talaga eh. Pero proud naman ako sa mga binigiay ng coaches at teammates ko,” said the 6-foot-1 swingman.

    And just like that, Caracut’s UAAP career was good as done. In his five years, he earned a championship in Season 79 and a silver medal in Season 80, but failed to compete in the Final Four on Seasons 78, 81, and 82.

    During that time however, he went through four coaches, namely Juno Sauler, Aldin Ayo, Louie Gonzalez, and Gian Nazario.

    Perhaps one can surmise that the constant changes surrounding Caracut and his teammates led them to their situation today.

    “Hindi naging madali kasi pabago-bago rin ng coaches. Lahat ng dumating na coaches, may natutunan naman ako. Hindi madali eh, lalo na pag first year ng coach tapos paiba-iba ‘yung players na nakakasama mo. Hindi naging madali pero nag-enjoy sa mga nakasama ko,” he opined.

    “Sobrang dami ko rin natutunan dun sa coaches at sa mga players na nakasama ko in five years.”

  8. #18
    Ricci Rivero not motivated by vengeance vs La Salle: ‘Just about the second seed’

    Published 6 hours ago

    on October 27, 2019

    By Matthew Li

    Tiebreaker Times

    ANTIPOLO — Former Archer Ricci Rivero was instrumental in ending La Salle’s Final Four hopes on Sunday.

    The 21-year-old tied his season-best of 12 points to go along with five rebounds and two assists, while helping University of the Philippines to a 71-68 conquest of his former school.

    Though it seemed like he had an axe to grind with La Salle — especially after the Archers limited him to just nine points and six rebounds in their first round encounter — Rivero said that was not the case.

    His primary motivation was to help give the Fighting Maroons a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round.

    “What we really are preparing for is getting the second seed. It’s not about who we are against, it’s just about the second seed.”

    Prior to this game, Rivero had been averaging just 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. But he does not mind the numbers as — just like his good friend Jaydee Tungcab — he remains focused on helping on the defensive end.

    Tiebreaker Times Ricci Rivero not motivated by vengeance vs La Salle: 'Just about the second seed' Basketball News UAAP UP UAAP Season 82 Men's Basketball UAAP Season 82 Ricci Rivero DLSU Men's Basketball Bo Perasol

    “I’m just really thinking of what I can contribute to the team especially sa defense. Sa defensive end, dun kami nagkaka-lapse. This season, I don’t really think much about offense. Kung meron, meron; kung wala, okay lang. Everyone in the team is capable of making their shots, especially Bright [Akhuetie], Kobe [Paras], Jun [Manzo], Javi and Juan [Gomez de Liano],” said the UAAP Season 80 Most Improved Player.

    “What we need is defense and that’s what I’m doing.”

    Rivero’s attitude throughout his first year in UP has greatly benefited the squad, since the once-alpha has taken a step back for the greater good.

    And it was particularly important against La Salle.

    “There were points in the game when we needed points, and Ricci’s contribution wasn’t just on points, but he was rebounding, he was defending, his mindset also of winning just rubbed off into the team. His confidence, his presence of mind inside — you could see it in him. Sometimes he goes out of the play, but you cannot question his intention,” said head coach Bo Perasol on Rivero, who went a plus-8 for the game.

    “At the end of the day, his contribution was huge. But it was a team effort that gave us the win.”

    But before thinking about their final game of the round against Ateneo, Rivero and his teammates plan to enjoy this one first. After all, this will be UP’s first-ever appearance to the Final Four armed with the twice-to-beat incentive.

    And Rivero dedicates this to everyone who has helped them, supported them, and motivated them.

    “Personally, it is really satisfying, because we really worked hard for this one. Not just me, not just the players, not just the coaches, but also the staff, the ball boys, the interns — everyone. We want to thank them also the community.”

  9. #19
    UP captures playoff incentive, boots out La Salle

    Published 10 hours ago

    on October 27, 2019

    By Matthew Li

    Tiebreaker Times

    ANTIPOLO — University of the Philippines snared the no. 2 seed in the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 71-68 escape of La Salle, Sunday at the Ynares Center.

    Kobe Paras delivered the go-ahead slam with 54.8 seconds remaining to push the Fighting Maroons up, 70-68. Their defense then prevailed in the endgame, forcing Encho Serrano to a turnover and a forced layup in the final minute.

    Jun Manzo secured the victory with a split from the line.

    UP has assured itself of a twice-to-beat incentive in the semis, its highest finish in the Final Four era.

    “How could we disappoint our community who came here in throngs, who have been supporting us all through the season?” said coach Bo Perasol, as the Fighting Maroons improved to 9-4 in the standings.

    “I mentioned to the guys that you’re not just fighting for our position but also fighting for our survival as well.”

    Manzo was the main man for UP with his 11 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Meanwhile, Bright Akhuetie topped the team in scoring with 17 points, on top of 10 boards, two assists, and two steals.

    Ricci Rivero also posted a season-high 12 points, five rebounds, and two dimes, while Paras got 10 points and four rebounds.

    Their brilliance helped UP establish an early 17-3 opener, before the furious La Salle got back in the second quarter and even took a 32-27 lead.

    The Fighting Maroons also seized a 60-51 edge with 7:14 left, but the Green Archers set up the frantic finish. They then went on a 15-2 run that made it a 66-52 La Salle lead with 2:55 on the clock.

    Akhuetie and Paras, however, had other plans. The two came up with big buckets in the endgame to set the Final Four cast and eliminate the 6-7 Green Archers.

    Jamie Malonzo paced La Salle with points and 11 rebounds in the losing cause.

    The Scores:

    UP 71 — Akhuetie 17, Rivero 12, Manzo 11, Paras 10, Ja. Gomez de Liano 8, Webb 6, Ju. Gomez de Liano 3, Prado 2, Tungcab 2, Spencer 0.

    DLSU 68 — Malonzo 17, Melecio 12, Baltazar 10, Bates 8, Serrano 8, Lojera 4, Manuel 4, Bartlett 3, Hill 2, Caracut 0.

    Quarterscores: 21-11, 35-34, 55-45, 71-68.

  10. #20
    "Ano na Ateneo-Lasalle Finals mo?" smugly said I.

    Mr Libog kept right on munching on his xiao long bao, liberally seasoned with ginger and black vinegar. I had this sinking feeling he was going to let me have it. We were having dinner just about an hour after UP made Lasalle's ouster from the Season 82 Final 4 race official, with a 71-68 victory.

    Truth be told it looked like the Fighting Maroons would cruise past the Green Archers, erecting as much as a 27-11 lead in the early goings on some nifty shooting and passing.

    Lasalle however fought back, and knotted the count at 27-all, and even led by five points sometime in the second period. Suddenly the UP gallery were sitting in stunned silence. Their guys made a three-pointer to still bring a one-point lead into the lemon time break.

    When the second half started, UP put on a 7-0 run and ended the third period on top by 10.

    Lasalle wasn't done though, keeping the game close and even threatening to upend the Maroons. If UP had lost this game, they very likely would have found themselves on the wrong end of a four-way tie among teams with identical 8-6 records. With yet another cardiac victory, they've now placed themselves squarely as the only team left to try and forge a regular Final 4, by beating the 13-0 Ateneo Blue Eagles this Wednesday.

    "OK naman pinakita nung expected na magpakita para sa Lasalle, like (Justin) Baltazar and (Jamie) Malonzo, and even (Brandon) Bates. Problema talaga sina Aljun (Melecio) at Andrei (Caracut). May na-shoot man lang ba si Caracut?" he asked as he slurped down some spicy beef brisket noodles.

    I shook my head.

    "Ayan. Ayan ang sinabi ko sa iyo nun pang mga last usapan natin 'di ba? They should just let their big guys have the ball, Bates as rebounding insurance, tapos catch-shoot na lang 'yung dalawang maliit. Pero hindi eh. What I said should not happen is what they did, ayan, laglag na naman sila, haha!" he explained.

    "Alam mo hindi naman kasi dapat mahirap ang basketball eh. Oo, wala silang import, pero UP is a small team, and they do not really defend, hindi ba dapat easy for Lasalle to beat a team like that? They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, just like in Round1," he added.

    Their one-done guys came in too late, which didn't bode well for team chemistry.

    "Baloney. Sino last dumating sa one-done nila, hindi ba si Malonzo? Sino lang ang totoong nagamit nila at totoong magaling pala, hindi ba si Malonzo pa din? Bullshit 'yang late dumating, 'yang practice, 'yang kung ano-ano pa, like that line you stole from me, ang magaling, magaling talaga," he said in between mouthfuls of the chicken chop and fried rice.

    I told him that next year they might have seven rookies, maybe more.

    "Wow, really? And once again they expect to do well? With seven newcomers? Lahat ba sila ka-level ni Malonzo? Kasi kung hindi, grand slam sa fifth place ang aabutin nila," he declared.

    I honestly don't know how good their newcomers are. So are they going to blow up this team and start from scratch?

    "With that many new faces, they don't really have much of a choice do they?" and he took a big gulp of his Diet Coke and got the check.

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