by Bashful JVS
Lasallian alumni who are basketball aficionados will never forget Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals – Michael Jordan’s iconic flu game, when he powered his Chicago Bulls to victory despite playing sick. On Wednesday morning, and on a smaller but no less significant scale, the Green Archers had to overcome the flu bug to score an important victory over the complete UE Warriors, 65-59.
Justine Baltazar fought through his illness to lead the way for La Salle with 23 points and 12 rebounds, as the undermanned De La Salle Green Archers leaned on just ten not-so-well players to overcome a feisty UE Red Warriors squad to score that critical 6-point victory.
The win strengthened La Salle’s position as a final four contender with 5 wins and 5 losses, tied for third place with UST. La Salle avenged their loss to the Red Warriors, who beat the them in the first round courtesy of Rey Suerte’s two clutch three pointers with less than a minute to go.
The Red Warriors gave La Salle a hard time the entire game – a mirror of the two teams’ first round encounter, with UE leading by as much as 8 points in the first half. The team from Recto made it difficult for La Salle to score and held the Green Archers to 36% shooting, while on the other end, they took advantage of La Salle’s defensive lapses. Somehow, flu and all, the Green Archers were able to keep in step with every UE run. And this time around, La Salle was steadier in crunch time.
With the Red Warriors breathing down their necks, Jamie Malonzo (12 points, 6 rebounds), drained a clutch three pointer to give La Salle a 61-57 lead with 1:24 left in the game. Alex Diakhite scored a layup to bring UE closer, but Encho Serrano countered with a layup to preserve La Salle’s advantage. Baltazar put the finishing touches on another double-double performance with two free throws to put La Salle up by 6 points.
The win was another piece of evidence that the Green Archers continue to learn and improve each game. They totally dominated NU in their first game of the second round, unlike their first encounter where the Archers barely eked out a 1-point victory. Against UE, they were stronger in the closing minutes even with a decimated lineup.
Next up for La Salle is another crucial game against another first-round tormentor, the FEU Tamaraws. La Salle will be looking to avenge their first round loss to FEU (55-66), and solidify their place in the top 4 of the standings. Game time is 4 PM at the Ynares Center, Antipolo. If I were FEU, I’d be worried.