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La Salle, UP march on

Joel Orellana

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De La Salle University demolished University of Santo Tomas, 110-69, in a highly physical encounter yesterday in Season 81 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Green Archers used a telling 20-to-nothing run at the start of the third period to break the game wide open and tighten their hold on the No. 3 spot with a 7-4 win-loss mark.
Aljun Melecio led six La Salle players in double figures with 22 points to go along with his six assists and five rebounds while Mark Dyke added a career-high 16 points.

Andrei Caracut (15), Jolo Go (14), Justine Baltazar (13) and Encho Serrano (13) also hit double figures in scoring for the Green Archers, who also dominated the Growling Tigers in the first round, 99-72.

In the second game, University of the Philippines climbed back to the fourth spot after dispatching National University, 82-71, and evened its win-loss record to 6-6.

Akhuetie posted another double-double game with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Juan Gomez de Liano flirted with another triple-double performance as he finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

UP’s win spoiled the career-high of Bulldogs rookie Dave Ildefonso, who netted a personal-best of 24 points but was not enough to stop the woes of NU, which dropped to 3-8 and is now on the brink of elimination.

Akhuetie and Gomez de Liano also drew help from Paul Desiderio and Gelo Vito, who chipped in 12 and 10 markers, respectively, for the Fighting Maroons who last reached the Final Four stage in 1997.

“This is a result of a good practice. Last night, I wished it will translate into a win because we really sacrificed for this. The whole week, even if it was a holiday, we’re working. I really prayed to reap the rewards of our sacrifices,” said La Salle head coach Louie Gonzalez.

“And my challenge to them was to be consistent. There are things we’re doing well but we will not stop there. We have to keep on improving,” he added.

Marvin Lee led all scorers with 26 points for UST while rookie CJ Cansino was the other Tiger in double digits with 14.

After Lee’s triple at the corner to push UST within two, 6-8, it was all La Salle the rest of the way as the Green Archers ended the first period with a 21-7 run for a 29-13 lead.

La Salle maintained the wide gap going to the break, 50-31, with Melecio already with 16 markers and the Growling Tigers had more turnovers (15) than field goals (9-of-25) in the first 20 minutes of play.

Then, a decisive 20-0 blitz by the Taft-based squad, highlighted by back-to-backs slams by Baltazar, gave the Green Archers a huge 70-31 separation with 4:07 left in the third canto.

Ira Battaler’s split free throws ended the scoring drought for UST, 32-70, and Cansino’s drive stopped the field goal drought of the Growling Tigers, 34-73, 3:24 remaining in that stage.

But UST was already in a deep hole and never recovered from the early blows as Serrano gave La Salle its biggest lead of the game at 47 points, which it posted twice in the fourth period.

Serrano’s triple made it 87-40 to open the final canto and his three-point play off Zach Huang gave the Green Archers a 97-50 spread with 5:30 remaining.

The game was marred with a lot of physical plays as several players were called for unsportsmanlike and technical fouls. UST’s Toby Agustin was ejected in the match for his disqualifying foul on La Salle’s Joaqui Manuel.

Growling Tigers coach Aldin Ayo and assistant Bonnie Garcia were also assessed technical fouls in the first half.

La Salle’s 41-point win was the biggest margin since 2016 or since the Green Archers drubbed the Growling Tigers by 43 points, 99-56, last 23 October in Season 79 with Ayo calling the shots for the green and white squad.

La Salle has now beaten the España-based team by an average of 35.5 points in their last six meetings.

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