DLSU Green Archers def. UE Red Warriors, 82-72
Justine Baltazar (16 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, one steal, 10/13 free throws)
The departures of Ben Mbala, Prince Rivero and Abu Tratter has opened up the playing time for Baltazar and the former NU Bullpup has embraced his new role magnificently as he collected his second consecutive double-double for the Green Archers this season. The lanky big man has stepped-up his game and is now armed with a variety of post moves while extending his shooting range as well. If Baltazar can maintain this high level of play, expect his name to be in the mix for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award this campaign.
Aljun Melecio (16 points, two rebounds, one assist, 5/7 3-point FG)
After shooting 1/7 and 1/9 from the three-point territory in the first two games of the season, Melecio finally broke out of his three-point shooting slump with an impressive display against the Red Warriors. The former De La Salle – Zobel standout was not fazed by his shooting woes in the last couple of games and continued to fire away behind the arc. Melecio shot 4/6 in the first half and knocked down his last with 56.9 seconds left in the game to extinguish the comeback hopes of UE.
Encho Serrano (11 points, four offensive rebounds, one steal, 2/3 3-point FG)
The controversial rookie, who was once hailed as the best high school prospect a few years ago, finally had his breakout game in the seniors division as he posted season highs in points, rebounds and field goal percentage (50%). The former AdU Baby Falcon came off the bench for the third straight game and contributed on both ends of the floor. His athleticism on the defensive end was a problem for the entire backcourt of the Red Warriors and he also showed that he has a three-point game in his offensive arsenal. Serrano’s outstanding play was appreciated by the crowd at the Filoil Flying V Arena as he received a round of applause when he exited the game at the 2:03 mark of the final period.
Alvin Pasaol (22 points, eight rebounds, three turnovers, 8/20 FG)
In the first round meeting of La Salle and UE last season, Pasaol recorded 49 points for the Red Warriors but still suffered a defeat. This time around, the result remained the same but Pasaol struggled in the first 35 minutes of the game. He was held to only five points and only exploded in the last five minutes when the DLSU defense relaxed due to their huge lead. Credit to him though as he kept on fighting until the final buzzer (made a tip-in at the end of the fourth quarter to make it 82-72).
- After losing their opening game against the FEU Tamaraws and escaping an upset against the NU Bulldogs in their second game, this game should be a welcome sight for DLSU head coach Louie Gonzales as they erected a 20-point lead, the biggest in the game, en route to the victory.
- Despite putting up a 52-32 lead at the 4:05 mark of the third quarter, Gonzales needs to remind his players to finish the game strong and not be complacent even though they are playing a team who has not finished in the Final Four 4 since reaching the championship round in Season 72. The Red Warriors mounted a late comeback and if they had more time, they would probably bring down the lead to single digits and apply pressure on the Green Archers.
- The bench play of La Salle was instrumental in the win as they provided the extra spark for Gonzales throughout the game. Before dominating the game, the Green Archers were outscored by UE, 7-2, in the first three minutes of the game. Santi Santillan and Kib Montalbo were the first two players that came off the bench for the Green-and-White and both players immediately made an impact. The former gobbled up the offensive rebounds while the latter was a menace on the defensive end and provided steady veteran playmaking with a game-high of five assists.
- Aside from Pasaol, only two players reached double-digits in scoring for the Red Warriors. Jason Varilla collected 14 points, but had a difficult time scoring the basketball as he only converted four shots out of 14 attempts in almost 31 minutes of play. Philip Manalang was the other player as he registered 11 points (2/7 from the field) while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out five assists. This young UE team can’t rely on Pasaol bailing them out in every game, and this problem should be resolved sooner rather than later.
- Side note: This game featured two interesting match-ups in Montalbo – Manalang and in Joaqui Manuel – Pasaol. The latter match-up featured a rookie from the ADMU Blue Eaglets program holding his own against a savvy veteran. Manuel started the game and played 15 minutes but spent most of his defensive man-to-man duties on Pasaol. He helped limit UE’s main scorer to (only!) five points in the first 35 minutes of the game. The former match-up, meanwhile, was a battle of two pesky guards who can play on both ends of the floor. Both Montalbo and Manalang are brilliant court generals who can score, assist, and play stifling defense for their team.