MANILA, Philippines-La Salle got its bearings in the nick of time to turn back University of Santo Tomas, 77-72, and live to fight another day in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
The Archers simply watched the Tigers self-destruct in the final period while unloading a vicious firepower of their own built on the efforts of Evan Nelle, who came out with his best game yet after finishing with 25 points.
La Salle’s close shave after holding the Tigers without a field goal for over eight minutes has kept the Archers clinging for a playoff opportunity to seize the last and final spot in the Final Four.
An Ateneo Blue Eagles’ victory in the other match over the Adamson Falcons will force a La Salle-Adamson do-or-die tussle for that final No. 4 ticket in the semifinals.
“We were three men down. Everybody stepped up and it’s a team effort. I just don’t want this to be our last game. Hopefully, one big fight,” said Nelle.
Do-it-all forward Kevin Quiambao checked in sick on Wednesday morning, the slam-dunking Michael Phillips remains on the road to recovery due to an illness and MVP contender Schonny Winston has been recuperating from an injured calf.
“We missed players again. It’s been a rough season for us. I don’t think we played with a complete roster, but we just have to keep playing and do our part,” said La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren.
For a long stretch, the Archers didn’t seem to be playing their part after allowing the Tigers to take control with Royce Mantua’s three at the corner giving UST a nine-point spread early in the fourth.
It was at that point that Raven Cortez, Mark Nonoy and Jan Macalalag teamed up with Nelle in a fiery 18-1 windup, sending the Tigers to their 13th straight defeat in a disappointing season that began with a promising win over the Falcons.
LA SALLE 77 — Nelle 25, Cortez 13, Nonoy 10, B. Phillips 8, Macalalag 6, Austria 5, Estacio 3, Abadam 2, Buensalida 2, Manuel 2, Nwankwo 1, Winston 0.
UST 72 — Mantua 17, Cabanero 16, Calimag 10, Faye 9, Pangilinan 5, Manalang 4, Laure 4, Manaytay 4, Lazarte 3, Duremdes 0, Garing 0, Escobido 0.
Quarters: 21-27, 37-42, 55-59, 77-72.