‘Di bale na lang kaya: the up-and-way down season of the La Salle Green Archers so far

By Eriko C. dela Cruz

At this point, every speculation about what happened to the De La Salle Green Archers has been exhausted by everyone, whether they be an armchair analyst or a professional. To say that they are a disappointment is a massive understatement. Imagine, from proclaiming that the Green Archers are number 1 coming into the season to wishing for just one more win to save face from a season of disgrace.

We will not talk about the nitty-gritty of the basketball played on the floor. To quote a certain UAAP media personality who apparently does not watch the games when he analyzes, Hindi tayo pwedeng umasa tayo puro sa numbers. Numbers numbers numbers, naknampota.

Akala ko naman ay sigurado na ako

The expectations started for La Salle fans once they won the PBA D-League title. That win showed everybody just how STACKED this Green Archer lineup is. Schonny Winston was less of a Keyshawn Meeker and more of a Mike Cortez in the DLSU Fil-Am spectrum. Evan Nelle has the workings to be the best point guard in UAAP season 85. Kevin Quiambao is… Well Kevin Quiambao. From top to bottom, it looks like this La Salle team has all the ingredients to win the UAAP title.

Pinaasa niya lang ako

Coming into this season, Evan Nelle made a very bold statement; that they are the number one team coming into season 85. It was not unfounded bravado, mind you. This team ON PAPER is really strong. Player-for-player, you can argue that they can out-talent any team. So was Evan’s statement bold? You bet your ass it was. Was it wrong? Well, arguably not. You join leagues with the intention of winning. If this is not your goal, maybe don’t join at all. Everybody needs an alpha type on their team. Nelle is that for the Green Archers.

Then the season started. Boy, they showed their might indeed. Their opening day game was a rematch from that hot Final 4 encounter against the UP Fighting Maroons. A lot of people were also speculating that this may be a very early finals preview, considering the firepower of both teams. Evan Nelle hit a potential game-winning three-pointer with six seconds left but committed a turnover that eventually spelled doom for La Salle. But hey, that is a loss everyone would take. For a lot of stretches in that game, they looked like they were the better team.

Then came the game against the Ateneo Blue Eagles. This season is the perfect chance to get their first win against them in five years. After all, a successful season is nothing without a win against their archrivals. Matalo na sa lahat, ‘wag lang sa Ateneo. Tormentors of seasons past like Gian Mamuyac, Tyler Tio, and SJ Belangel are now playing professionally, and the replacements still seem to be very raw. Win that game they did, on the back of a 25-point midrange master class by Schonny Winston, with Nelle pumping 10 points of his own. The Green Archers also flexed their bench, with guys like Raven Cortez and Earl Abadam getting significant burn. 

With this, La Salle was in a three-way deadlock with Ateneo and NU for second place. La Salle lost against UE which came out guns blazing, but it was just a bump on the road considering the advantage the Green Archers had in their next three games.

Bitin na bitin ako

Then the fall came harshly. Since the game against Ateneo, they have won just once. The FEU Tamaraws, who were still struggling to find their identity that time, fell prey to the hungry La Salle team. La Salle then proceeded to lose against NU and Adamson, both games they had the lead for most of the game but could not hold on to it. The Adamson game particularly must have been painful since they lost that game twice. Once in regulation when Kevin Quiambao missed the potential game-winning basket, and another in Overtime where Evan Nelle failed to show the composure of training locally and winning the D-League title and sealed the win for the Soaring Falcons. These, however, on top of losing Schonny Winston indefinitely, are just the tip of the iceberg of a shit sandwich they are in now.

Hindi ko na alam kung makakaya ko pa

If DLSU’s losses against Adamson and NU were disappointing, their next two losses against the FEU Tamaraws and the Ateneo Blue Eagles were downright disgusting.

Look, if you are a team as deep as DLSU, losing key personnel should not be a problem given how deep your lineup is. At the very least, it should give you a win no matter how ugly it is. But imagine not using the personnel you have. Raven Cortez was not even fielded in to relieve the hole Mike Philips left in that game. Mark Nonoy was quite ineffective to relieve Evan Nelle. This team went from the most talented roster, to a team that would go as far as Schonny Winston will take them. And their woes would be even more compounded against Ateneo.

The Green Archers actually started the game well against the Blue Eagles. The Green Archers capitalized on the break and timely passes gave them a 6-0 lead. Every shot by the Blue Eagles had a Green Archer counter waiting for it. At the half, it was all tied despite their best player and MVP not being there. All things were under La Salle’s control until the Blue Eagles remembered they had a third-quarter switch and flipped it. The final score read 64-50 in favor of Ateneo. From ANIMO F’IN LA SALLE to the sound of crickets.

They have been very uncharacteristic. Instead of matching Ateneo skill for skill, a lot of energy has been wasted on flopping. Kevin Quiambao is a wunderkind. His court vision and passing make him a special talent even as a rookie. He does not need to act like he suffered a myocardial infarction. 

Mike Philips is strong and athletic as all hell (some would even call him a finesse player which is totally wrong but still). He can take Ange Kouame without flopping.

As of now, La Salle is not out of the Final Four picture. But the margin of error for the Green Archers would make every one of their next five games a must-win. They would also need a lot of luck on their side, hoping those in contention for the fourth slot to slip. It’s a tall order for La Salle, and it’s very easy to abandon their plans and say ‘di bale na lang kaya. Knowing the ANIMO that these players have, however, as well as the legions of fans that love and support them, the Green Archers will not quietly go into the night. They just have to start somewhere, and the FIBA break seems like a good time to do that.

Ngunit mahal ko siya.

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