MANILA, Philippines – The La Salle Green Archers are heading to the UAAP Season 85 with a vengeance after falling short in the Season 84 Final Four, and they have quickly solidified their return as a top contender by winning the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup title on Wednesday, August 31.
With multi-time UAAP champion coach Derick Pumaren at the helm, the Archers rallied from a finals Game 1 loss against Marinerong Pilipino, and cruised to a 91-78 Game 3 blowout to cap off a dominant season showing.
Top guards Evan Nelle, Schonny Winston and Mark Nonoy provided a huge scoring lift despite having late off-season debuts, while CJ Austria broke out as yet another reliable option with his relentless attacking mindset and scrappy defense.
Not only have the Archers polished a loaded back court rotation, but they also boast a three-headed front court monster in the form of D-League MVP runner-up Michael Phillips, burly foreign student-athlete Bright Nwankwo, and “point center” Kevin Quiambao.
For Pumaren, he has seen enough in the Archers’ hectic, but productive off-season to believe his team has a real fighting chance heading to the new UAAP season in October.
“There are still some things we need to probably check with our defense, some more patience. Offensively, I think we just gotta be more patient, but we’re right there,” he said.
“I’m happy with the way they’re executing. There’s chemistry, they’re moving the ball, they’re making extra passes.”
In the title-clinching Game 3, La Salle indeed looked like a well-oiled machine as it churned out 23 assists to just 10 turnovers, while having four players score at least 13 points.
The Archers also outrebounded Marinerong Pilipino, 55-36, while having a whopping 29 boards coming on the offensive end.
“It just goes to show you that the chemistry is there already,” Pumaren continued. “We just have to keep pounding so when we get to the UAAP, it’s going to be a totally different team.”
The veteran coach also praised the team’s improvement in closing out games – a prevalent problem in La Salle’s last UAAP campaign, where it lost a finals spot to eventual champion UP in overtime of a do-or-die Game 3.
The Archers will have one last off-season tuneup stretch in Japan from September 10 to 20, but even now, the team certainly looks primed to take the UAAP by storm once again by season kickoff in a month’s time.
“That’s why we’re here and why we joined this D-League tournament. We just got to be a better team. We don’t just want to be better, we want to be a championship-caliber team,” Pumaren said.
“This is part of the program and we’re trying to work on it, and I’m pretty sure that this will toughen the team. I’m really happy with the way they responded.” – Rappler.com