As the losses piled up, the weight on Aljun Melecio’s young shoulders grew heavier and heavier.
And so it was a relief for the senior guard when the De La Salle University Green Archers ended the first round on a high note with a 92-77 win over the UST Growling Tigers.
The Season 79 Rookie of the Year made it all possible, catching fire right from tip-off.
In 29 minutes of play, the spitfire guard chipped in 26 points and five assists to help propel his team towards the finish line. It was a redemption of sorts for him since his costly turnover against UP last game handed the Fighting Maroons the victory.
“Siyempre, sinisisi ko sarili ko dun.
“As a veteran, ‘di na pwedeng magawa yung ganung turnover. For sure, naging learning experience yun for me,” he said.
However, the one-time UAAP gold put the team’s success over any temptation to force his shots and redeem himself. He only wanted to help La Salle get back on track. All he does is to take the good and the bad lessons in every assignment and use them to grow.
“Lumalabas lang talaga kung ano yung wino-work out mo. Extra work lang yun, and swerte na ngayon siya lumabas,” Melecio insisted.
The game against UST was a reunion of sorts for Melecio, with two people with whom he shares a close bond — coach Aldin Ayo and former teammate Brent Paraiso. It was the first time he faced the duo together, who now wear the Growling Tigers yellow. Fortunately, the occasion turned out to be memorable for him.
“Gusto ko rin talaga maglaro ng one-hundred percent kasi the way na pinapakita ko respect sa kalaban, kahit sino, is giving my best.
“Si coach Aldin, siyempre, sobrang laki ng respeto ko sa kanya. Siya bumuo ng pagkatao ko sa college basketball. Siya nagbigay ng kumpyansa sa akin nung rookie pa lang ako. The way na pasalamatan ko siya is to play every possession like the last possession,” the 5-foot-8 guard shared.
When it comes to Paraiso, though, it was definitely strange to see both players on opposite sides. Both players are De La Salle Zobel alumni, and reached the finals in the juniors division back in Season 78. They then won a championship together at the seniors level with La Salle.
“Nagtatawanan kami kanina. Nung first half, pumutok siya. Sabi ko, ‘Brent, ‘di ka naman ganyan dati ha? May hugot ka ba?’ Pero iba lang talaga yung bond namin ni Brent,” the 20-year-old Melecio said of his teammate, who led UST with 22 points and six reboards.
With the second round on the horizon amidst this compressed schedule, La Salle look to have more chemistry as a team. Only wins shall do for the Green Archers, and they look more ready to make their mark in the next seven fixtures.
“Napagod na kaming matalo. Hopefully, madala namin yong confidence na ‘to sa round two. Right now, yung team namin, ‘di alam kung sino puputok. Kahit sino pwede, kaya mahirap bantayan.”
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