MANILA, Philippines – The La Salle Green Archers pulled out all the stops in the clutch to pull away with a crucial 77-72 win against the also-ran UST Growling Tigers on the last day of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball eliminations at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, November 30.
Evan Nelle carried the depleted Archers offense missing Kevin Quiambao, Schonny Winston, and Michael Phillips with a season-high 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block, while Raven Cortez scored 13 off the bench with 4 boards and 2 steals.
La Salle now hopes that rival Ateneo beats Adamson in the 4 pm game to put the Soaring Falcons on the Green Archers’ level with identical 7-7 slates, thus triggering a playoff game for the fourth and final seed.
An Adamson upset win over Ateneo, though, will give the Falcons the No. 4 spot and boot out the Green Archers. (UPDATE: La Salle, Adamson to dispute the last Final Four berth in a playoff match as Ateneo scores win)
Coming off a 60-69 deficit after a Royce Mantua triple early in the fourth quarter, La Salle’s offense finally stirred with a key 13-0 run, capped by a Jan Macalalag long two that coincided with a Christian Manaytay foul on Ben Phillips for two free throws and the 73-69 lead with 1:50 left.
UST still had its chances after Richie Calimag corralled Adama Faye’s second missed free throw down 3, 70-73, but his pass to Mantua in the corner with 1:39 left came too early as the former FEU gunner was whistled for stepping out of bounds.
A few possessions later, Faye then threw the ball away after jockeying for post position at the 21-second mark, leading to the game-winning Nelle charities on the other end that ended UST’s real upset effort.
“It was a hard-fought ball game. We’re missing players again, and I told the guys that it’s been a rough season for us,” said La Salle head coach Derick Pumaren.
“The boys hung tough out there, just a total team effort.”
Mantua had his best game yet in the seniors division with a career-high 17 points off the bench on 5-of-7 shooting from three, while the returning Nic Cabañero scored 16 with 5 rebounds and 4 assists for the Tigers.
UST, after once showing promise with an opening-day win, ultimately ended its forgettable season with 13 straight losses for a dead-last 1-13 slate.
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.