Up by 10 points in the fourth quarter, La Salle seemed to put behind the bitter memory of last week’s end game collapse against FEU. Unfortunately, it was déjà vu as they once again blew a double-digit fourth quarter lead, falling to the UE Red Warriors, 85-83.
It was a close first half, the first quarter ended 18-all and the second quarter ended 43-39 in favor of DLSU. They started to control the game during the third quarter and the early to middle portions of the fourth quarter as they built a 10-point lead. It appeared that they were ready to pull away and start a winning streak, but Roi Sumang had other plans as he hit one clutch shot after another. Ralf Olivarez made a crucial three to give the lead to UE, 82-81. With UE up by three, Luigi De La Paz made a corner triple, or so we thought. Turns out it was only a long two, so La Salle was forced to foul. With UE splitting their charities, the Green Archers had one more chance to tie or win the game but Thomas Torres mid-range shot did not go in, much to the disappointment of the spectators wearing green. It was another bitter pill to swallow for La Salle. With the first round about to end, they need to end the round strong in order to boost its Final Four hopes.
Reviewing Keys to the Game
1. Stop Roi Sumang
A huge x mark, obviously. Sumang exploded for 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He proved to be too much in the clutch as the Archers failed to contain the King Red Warrior during the furious UE fourth quarter run. La Salle got tons of quality guards but Sumang just ran circles around them.
2. Play consistent for 40 minutes
Again, another huge x mark. La Salle started fine, as it was a close first half. They started to control the game during the third quarter and until the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter, then they blew a fourth quarter double digit lead once again. La Salle is starting to have a reputation of a blowing huge leads during the fourth quarter. If they want to make it back to the Final Four, the Archers needs to develop mental toughness, and develop it ASAP!
3. FREE THROWS
THIS IS SO DEPRESSING! 3-11 from the line! No player made two free throws in a row. De La Paz missed three straight free throws. Well, at least Jeron Teng only missed one free throw. When he made his first one, the La Salle gallery celebrated. And then, he made four straight free throws, and the La Salle crowd went nuts! Unfortunately, he made those four straight free throws during the halftime break. Again, mental toughness, something this team lacks in this tournament so far, and something they need to develop ASAP in order to return to the Final Four. So all three keys of the game are X marks, so it is no surprise DLSU lost the game. It’s a good thing I did not include “Stop Charles Mammie” in my pre-game, or it would have been 0/4 for me, as Mammie dominated for 19 points and 16 big rebounds.
Almond Vosotros scored a career-high 26 points, including four three-point shots, “Vosotres” style. Even though he did not score in the second half, Jeron Teng had a nice all-around game, 13 points, five assists, four rebounds and surprisingly, played good defense, as he even registered two blocks. After struggling during the last few games, Norbert Torres finally had an “ok” game, contributing nine points. But I know that he can do so much more. No thanks to foul trouble, Arnold Van Opstal struggled during the first half but he scored all of his eight points during the second half, including a huge slam dunk during the latter part of the fourth. AVO played with a lot of heart and I hope the other Archers can follow his lead. Playing in his very first UAAP game, Matt Salem was a revelation, scoring six points via two three-point shots.
FREE THROWS! It is so frustrating! Also, La Salle did not manage the clock well and lacked the killer instinct required for a championship-caliber squad. It is all about mental toughness. And so far, DLSU lacks mental toughness. We need to toughen up, and do it quick, or we will be eliminated by mid September.
Next stop for La Salle is a strong Adamson squad. Adamson are on a high after defeating NU in their last outing. They are a confident team who believes they can barge to the Final Four. I know it is only the first round but this game got huge Final Four implications. La Salle needs to win the last two games of the first round, both against fellow Final Four contenders Adamson and NU, in order to pull down the other teams a bit, and end the round with respectable 4-3 record. Remember, La Salle also started last year with a 2-3 record then still made it to the Final 4 and given the parity of the league, anything is possible. But La Salle needs to develop mental toughness and develop it ASAP. And, for the nth time, to end my article, FREE THROWS.