La Salle rues having to live through adversity this season. Adamson recently watched a rare chance fritter away.But there’s no use grumbling about their past as the Green Archers and the Falcons with a runoff on Sunday to determine the owner of the last Final Four ticket in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament. “It’s been a rough season for us. I don’t think we played with a complete roster [this season], so sometimes I question why,” La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren said. “Maybe God has a plan for us, there’s a reason for everything. We just have … to do our part.’’
The Green Archers barely made it to this do-or-die after the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigers gave them the fits at the close of the elimination round last week.And they needed crucial aid from bitter rival Ateneo to earn a make-or-break showdown with the Falcons, who have been playing with a strong sense of no-tomorrow urgency.
“We’ve conditioned the minds of our players that every game is our final game. Hopefully on Sunday, whether it’s close or not, we could manage to cross (to the Final Four),’’ said Adamson coach Nash Racela.Had they beaten the Blue Eagles in their last game, the Falcons would have progressed to the semifinals outright as the fourth-ranked squad.
But Ateneo weathered Adamson’s strong comeback to hammer out a 66-61 victory that breathed life into rival La Salle’s flat-lining season.
The winner of this expectedly testy duel won’t get much of a prize: An extra playdate or two to try and topple No. 1 Ateneo in the Final Four. The Blue Eagles will go into that duel armed with twice-to-beat protection.
But as uncertain as the future holds for the runoff’s survivor, La Salle will take every opportunity to keep its season alive.
“We’ve been going through a lot of adversities this season, but … I just really want to continue playing with these guys. We don’t want this to be our last game. Hopefully, one big fight,’’ said La Salle starting point guard Evan Nelle.
Missing three key players lately, the Archers are hoping that forwards Kevin Quiambao and Michael Phillips, who were in sick bay last time out, could suit up along with Schonny Winston (calf injury).
“We’ve been playing solid basketball despite what’s happening in our team. Just keep on fighting and hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel,’’ said Pumaren.
Adamson won’t mind the bleakness of what awaits the team if it does progress to the semifinals.
The Falcons will go into the knockout match looking to milk every advantage against La Salle: Perhaps the physical edge of having injured stars—Jerom Lastimosa and Vince Magbuhos—back in duty.
Adamson also has another recovered gem in Adrian Manlapaz, who poured 17 of his 22 points when the Falcons nearly pulled off the upset at the Blue Eagles’ expense.
Meanwhile, University of the Philippines’s Malick Diouf is set to be named men’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) for this season. UST’s Eka Soriano was named MVP of the women’s side.