By Neal Tieng
It was one of the most crucial game of the season. The Green Archers could have strengthened their chances for a playoff berth with a victory over FEU, and in the process, reduce the chances of FEU as a contender for the final 4. Instead, they had their most cringe-worthy game defensively and offensively.
Struggling from opening tip to the final buzzer, La Salle found absolutely no solution to a steaming hot FEU squad and dropped a disappointing 60-81 loss in a game that really mattered. FEU shot an incredible 54.1% from the field and 44.83% from the 3-point zone to overpower the game but outmatched La Salle quintet.
The Tamaraws crashed out of the gates running and gunning and immediately built a 6-0 lead with FEU’s LJ Gonzales, Alec Stockton and import Pat Tchuente, and never looked back. The Green Archers on the other hand looked out of sync and out of touch, which was very unfortunate as FEU was so locked in defensively that they took out everything La Salle wanted to do on offense.
With Justin Baltazar’s baseline option effectively closed out by the aggressive Tamaraw defense and the tandem of Aljun Melecio and Andrei Caracut misfiring from long range, La Salle was smothered and ended the first quarter trailing by 16, 11-27.
The FEU guns just kept on firing.
From the starting unit to the second-string guards from Morayta were ripping the net as Xyrus Torres drained even contested looks and the Tams built a bigger 17-36 lead midway into the second quarter. Encho Serrano gave the La Salle faithful some hope by leading a 7-0 blast to end the second canto, trimming the lead down to 29-40 at the half.
FEU was ready to answer. And the answer was to cast a seemingly unbreakable defensive web that would deny the Green Archers any basket for four full minutes while FEU’s import Tchuente was dominating the paint to increase the Tamaraw lead to 29-49 midway through the 3rd.
Just what Coach Olsen Racela ordered, FEU just continued to burn La Salle throughout the remainder of the second half with superior shooting and firm control of the pace. FEU forced La Salle to play Tamaraw basketball and the conclusion of this was decided way before the final buzzer.
Baltazar topped La Salle with 16 points and 9 rebounds but went on a nightmare 2-for7 from the stripe while Jamie Orme – Malonzo contributed 13 points to round up the only two Taft cagers in double figures.
La Salle dropped to solo fifth going into the last three games with a 5-7 card.
NUMBERS DID NOT LIE
The Green Archers, who topped the league keeping the opponents from sharing the basketball, allowed FEU 18 assists in the game while only able to make 10 of their own. So fluid was FEU’s offense that they even outscored La Salle in points in the paint 37-24 despite their red-hot shooting from the outside.
The Taft Towers were also out of order as FEU outhustled La Salle 43-40 off the boards.
THE REMAINING GAMES
After the weekend loss by Adamson to UP which relegated the Soaring Falcons to 4-7, La Salle holds solo fifth with a 5-6 card with FEU with half-game ahead of La Salle with a 6-6 slate.
La Salle will face UST on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at the Araneta Coliseum and will square off with UP on Saturday, October 27 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo in what will be the season-defining final run for La Salle.
The Green Archers will then finish off the elimination round on October 30 against Adamson at the MOA Arena.
To say that these games are tough is an understatement. UST is peaking with former Rookie of the Year CJ Cansino starting to play like his old self, while UP seems determined to keep some space over 3rd running UST.
As an old saying goes, “tough times don’t last but TAFT people do”. In times when our character is tested to the limits, it is when we unleash our ANIMO.
Keep the faith so they say as we cheer until the end.
ANIMO LA SALLE!!!