By Bashful JVS
For the second season in a row, the De La Salle Green Archers will not be competing in the final four of the UAAP, after they lost a close one against the UP Fighting Maroons, 68-71. La Salle fought tooth and nail with last season’s finalists, but came up just short in the final minute of the game.
Jamie Malonzo led La Salle in scoring with 17, joining center Justine Baltazar in manning the boards. Still, those numbers were not enough against a UP team who delivered in crunch time to lock up the second seed. Aljun Melecio came alive in the fourth quarter for DLSU, as he helped La Salle stay in the game, before ultimately conceding the tightly-contested game to UP.
The Green Archers had to climb out of double-digit holes twice in the game, and successfully came back in both occasions. La Salle started very sluggishly, and were down by as much as 16, 27-11. However, they erased UP’s lead with 21 straight points, to gain a meager 5 point lead. UP made a run to regain a one-point lead at halftime.
Once again, the Green Archers started off sluggishly in the third quarter, which caused UP to build another double-digit lead. La Salle was down by 10 points after three quarters, 45-55. And once again, they fought back to try and save their season. La Salle unleashed a 21-7 run to take a 66-62 lead with less than three minutes to go.
However, the Fighting Maroons had the final run in the game, which La Salle were unable to answer. Kobe Paras gave the team from Diliman the lead for good, when he slipped Jamie Malonzo’s defense for an uncontested dunk to give UP a 70-68 lead.
The Green Archers had several chances to tie or take the lead, with the last one being Encho Serrano’s difficult attempt which UP were successfully able to defend against. UP made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 71-68, and La Salle was never able to make a final heave as the final buzzer expired.
For the Green Archers, disappointment was the name of the game once again, as they lost their third game by three points or less (2-3 in the season), two of which were to the Fighting Maroons. More than that, it’s the final four hope slipping away that has the La Salle faithfuls dismayed.
Jamie Malonzo, Keyshawn Meeker, James Laput will will try to end their La Salle careers on a high as they play their final games for La Salle on Wednesday against Adamson (12:30 PM, Mall of Asia Arena), together with the graduating Andrei Caracut. The Archers will also try to end the season with a .500 record, despite exiting the final four race.