By Gio Gloria
DLSU Green Archers def. UST Growling Tigers, 92-77
Encho Serrano (Career-High 29 points, five rebounds, two assists, and one steal)
Encho Serrano went deep into his bag of tricks in what was definitely the best UAAP game of his young career. What makes his stat line more impressive was that the former FIBA 3×3 U18 standout outscored the entire UST bench, 29-18.
A constant ball of energy, Serrano almost single-handedly countered every UST run by scoring at will against any Growling Tiger matched up with him. The control in his game was noticeable as well as he utilized ball fakes, spin moves, and kept his defender on his hip, bringing back flashes of when he was relentlessly dominating defenses as a member of the Adamson Baby Falcons.
Aljun Melecio (26 points, 6/9 3-FGs, five assists, and one steal)
Aljun Melecio has never taken a shot he didn’t like, but against UST, he was more patient and understood when to pick his scoring spots on the floor. Although Melecio got most of his points from behind the arc, he also finished off some quick lobs off a couple of inbound plays. The Season 79 Rookie of the Year also acted as a safety valve for when Serrano and Andrei Caracut would dish out the ball after driving to the basket.
Brent Paraiso (22 points, 9/11 FGs, 3/5 3-FGs, six rebounds, and four turnovers)
Brent Paraiso nearly made this his revenge game against DLSU, as he was making the most of how the Green Archers focused on taking Soulemane Chabi Yo out of his element. Paraiso, who normally defers to his teammates in scoring, had 15 points by halftime thanks in large part to what the La Salle defense was giving him. He also tried to take on Serrano on defense and while it may have compromised his energy on offense, it did not do the same for the Green Archers’ high-point man.
Soulemane Chabi Yo (16 points, 4/10 FGs, 14 rebounds, and one block)
Chabi Yo was more Chabi Yo Where You At against DLSU than the MVP front runner from the past six games. Half of his points came from the free throw line and other than two shots from the post, the former Colegio de San Lorenzo standout could not get to completely establish himself offensively. Justine Baltazar, Brandon Bates, and even Jamie Malonzo took turns in limiting Chabi Yo to being a passer and at times a mere spectator on offense, daring the rest of the Growling Tigers to go to the likes of Paraiso for offense.
- DLSU’s defense was on point from the start as they were deflecting passes, switching when need be, and pressuring the UST backcourt, all in all, preventing the Growling Tigers from running portions of their offense through Chabi Yo.
- If their defense aided them in getting the lead in the first half, it was the Green Archers’ offense that carried them in the second half. Running the break and overall ball movement helped La Salle find the best shots possible (and doused any chances of another heartbreaking comeback), resulting in a season-best 51.35 percent shooting from the field and 19 assists to the Growling Tigers’ 12, with eight of those DLSU assists coming from Caracut.
- Beyond the box score, Joaqui Manuel and Jordan Bartlett played integral roles in the Green Archers’ first-round finale. The former dove for loose balls and made the right passes, while the latter ensured that the offense was well spread and provided the calming presence whenever UST would bring out their press.
- Although Growling Tigers head coach Aldin Ayo fielded in more players, La Salle active consultant Jermaine Byrd and head coach Gian Nazario got more from their 10-man rotation, with a 51-41 Starter to Bench Scoring ratio and only one player (James Laput) who went scoreless.
- UST scored the first five points of the game, but they were unable to adjust to how DLSU defended them in the following possessions. Aside from being badly beaten on fastbreak points 24-4, the Growling Tigers made 13 of their 22 free throw attempts and missed 19 of their 27 from behind the 3-point line.
- The challenge for the Green Archers now is how to make sure they don’t rely too much on Serrano’s offense but instead use him as another layer to their offensive approach. UST meanwhile, must regroup now that most teams have figured out that putting a bigger and/or athletic defender on Chabi Yo can negate a significant portion of the Growling Tigers’ offensive capabilities.