La Salle vs SWU Game Reaction: Dog Day Afternoon

Kib Montalbo

A former heralded recruit getting back at his old team. A relatively less hyped championship squad from the South breezing into town and playing out the perfect underdog story. A jubilant Southwestern University crowd with clenched fists at the final buzzer after seeing their home team knock down the top guns of the UAAP. Welcome to the PCCL.

Right from the opening tip, the Southwestern University Cobras showed they came out to play as former Green Archer Mac Tallo scored the first basket of the game on a hard drive to the basket. Despite Jason Perkins and most of the La Salle relievers establishing a comfortable lead in the first quarter, it was clear the Cobras had more energy and intensity as they kept pushing the ball and going strong inside.

SWU’s offense got going in the second quarter with Monbert Arong scoring on a variety of layups and the Green Archers turning the ball over too many times for comfort, somewhat struggling to find a consistent source of baskets in the absence of Arnold Van Opstal.

After a low scoring first half, always ominous for a usually fluid offensive machine like the Green Archers, the third quarter pretty much stayed the same, with Arong, Tallo, Adams Mohammed and Landry Sanjo ensuring the Cobras were always within striking distance against mostly La Salle’s second stringers with a healthy balance of running the floor and inside presence.

Admittedly, we were all waiting for the Green Archers to enforce their will and drive home the win. It was just a matter of time, as we’ve all been accustomed to since the second round of the recently concluded men’s UAAP basketball season. But in the final four minutes, things began heating up. And in an already humid and stuffy basketball venue on a lazy Monday afternoon, it all made for good basketball.

Maybe it was the healthy crowd of SWU supporters cheering a bit louder and rising up after every basket, compounded with the extra aggressiveness suddenly exuding from the Green archers as the Cobras weren’t just playing to merely keep the game interesting anymore, but a loss for the UAAP champions to open the final four round of the PCCL suddenly didn’t seem too farfetched.

With Almond Vostros and Jason Perkins missing potential game winners to end regulation, the SWU dominated overtime 16-6, with Melvin Holper sinking two triples complete with invisible guns twirled and holstered. I guess that one’s for you, Jeric Teng. And with Arong draining a three of his own with 1:16 left, a nine point lead finally put the game out of reach for La Salle.

Despite the current tournament not garnering the same crowd support, media hype and off court buzz as the UAAP or NCAA, I for one wouldn’t mind at all ending the year by calling the Green Archers national champions. But as the history of the PCCL has proven, this league is its own hoops animal, allowing grudges to be repaid and champions to be on the receiving end. In less than two weeks a new national collegiate champion will be crowned, and the format doesn’t allow much time for peaking or getting back into one’s comfort zone.

Having now only lost thrice in tournament play since July 28, it is difficult to nitpick at a team that brought us all to the ranks of greatness, especially during a UAAP season when most of us least expected it. Difficult, but necessary.

Obviously one has to start with the stalled halfcourt offense in the absence of Van Opstal. Clearly without a consistent and legitimate low post threat, the rest of the offense stalls, especially if the Green Archers don’t hit from the outside, going 28.3% and 18.8% from 2-point and 3-point range respectively. La Salle tried to establish Jason Perkins down low in the endgame, but he couldn’t do it on his own as SWU’s defense clamped down by not giving up space, taking away the passing lanes and altering numerous shots.

Almond Vostros and Jeron Teng also didn’t seem to be in their usual offensive comfort zones, while we now feel the absence of LA Revilla’s ability to beat a full court press all on his own. With 23 turnovers, the Green Archers really can’t expect to win games handily. Throw in La Salle’s inability to dominate the boards in the usual fashion, maybe it all boils down to intensity and aggressiveness.

As always, I’m a glass half full type of person, seeing all players get adequate minutes, breaking into the scoring column and relievers like Matt Salem and Robert Bolick sacrificing their bodies by setting hard screens, taking charges and scrambling for the loose ball. So I’m quite certain the dust from this loss can be shrugged off without being complacent as we face a FEU team with a legitimate grudge against us later today.

As others may have noticed as well, Coach Juno Sauler’s strongest five—Teng, Vosotros, Perkins, Norbert and Thomas Torres—started playing with that extra juice in their step as the game started winding down and SWU was clearly out to claim an upset win. That five stayed on the floor for about the final 9 minutes of the game, breathing heavily at times yet trying to find the will the win. Never having been person to question a team I respect, I am confident a wake up call was made even before yesterday’s game was over.

As much as it is true when SWU’s Coach Alcoseba told his team that you can’t think you don’t have a chance when you step on the floor, you can’t think you’ve won a game without having even played it yet either. More than witnessing the championship celebration and revelry that occurs behind closed doors, I’ve always been interested in a Coach Sauler dugout after a loss. After all, that’s what turned a maligned team in the first round of the UAAP into a great one two weeks later.

At the end of the day, whether La Salle’s knockout game happens between FEU or San Beda, depending on the outcome of the games between the other teams, this is a tournament where no team is just happy to be here. It really is all about pride. Championship pride. Welcome to the PCCL.

Box Scores:

SWU (68) – Arong 17, Tallo 13, Mohammed 12, Sanjo 11, Holper 9, Goloran 4, Siewe 2, Pardo 0, Bautista 0, Panerio 0, Bregondo 0.

DLSU (58) – T. Torres 12, Perkins 10, Teng 7, Salem 7, Vosotros 6, N. Torres 4, Tampus 4, Montalbo 2, Dela Paz 2, Reyes 2, Bollick 2.

Quarterscores: 9-16; 23-30; 33-37; 52-52; 68-58.


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