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MANILA, Philippines – Ask and you shall receive. Take it from Evan Nelle.
Nelle ended his collegiate career in storybook fashion as he and La Salle captured the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball crown, with the Green Archers halting a seven-year title drought by outlasting the UP Fighting Maroons.
Forcing a winner-take-all Game 3, Nelle and the Archers hacked out a thrilling 73-69 win over the fancied Maroons in a championship game witnessed by a record 25,192 crowd at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, December 6.
His final year played out as Nelle envisioned as he joined La Salle with hopes of winning another collegiate title after his surprising exit from San Beda.
“I prayed for this. I really damn did,” said Nelle.
Nelle helped the Red Lions secure a third straight NCAA championship when they ruled Season 94 in 2018, but their four-peat bid got foiled the following year as they fell to rivals Letran Knights in the Season 95 finals.
Feeling the need for a fresh start elsewhere, Nelle left the Red Lions’ den and linked up with the Archers.
Nelle, though, looked headed for another finals heartbreak after La Salle absorbed a sound 97-67 beating from UP in Game 1, which marked the most lopsided loss in a UAAP championship series opener in the Final Four era.
In the last two games, the feisty guard nearly averaged a triple-double with 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 8.5 assists on top of 3.5 steals and 1 block as La Salle annexed its 10th UAAP title overall.
“This is a perfect setting for me, perfect environment for me. My last year was really perfect. I met friends here at La Salle, people I would consider my friends for life,” said Nelle.
“My La Salle years are the best years of my life.”
Aside from the championship, Nelle said their impassioned practices are the most memorable part of his time with the Archers.
“It was hella competitive. We would always bicker, nobody wanted to lose. 4-on-4, 3-on-3, everybody was locked in to win from the get-go. We all had one goal from the start,” said Nelle, who also earned a spot in this season’s Mythical Team.
And as feisty as they were against each other in training, Nelle and his teammates were each others’ biggest supporters when the going got tough.
“When you start to play bad, when you start to lose, doubts would creep in. My teammates are the first ones to lift my head up, to push back the eagerness to achieve this goal,” said Nelle.
“I would not have done anything without them.”
From newly crowned MVP Kevin Quiambao to the last man on the bench, Nelle hailed this group of La Salle players as a one of a kind crew.
“I think I’ve had stronger teams before, but this one, the camaraderie of this group, is second to none,” Nelle said. – Rappler.com