After holding a double-digit lead in the first quarter of their game against the De La Salle University Green Archers, the National University Bulldogs crumbled the rest of the way.
The Green Archers slowly climbed back, mounting runs built off their pressure defense.The Bulldogs had a late 76-74 lead thanks to baskets from Dave Ildefonso and Troy Rike, but the Green Archers made all the big plays from there – including a back-breaking baseline jumper from Justine Baltazar with less than 30 seconds left.
Ildefonso was left to rue the chance to go up 2-0 in the standings. The rookie from Ateneo scored a team-high 16 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
The Bulldogs felt that they’d had a prime chance to establish themselves as contenders with the win. Ildefonso knew he had several chances to make a better plays down the stretch.
“Sa tingin ko amin talaga dapat ‘yun. Stretches of the game, good shot ‘yung kay Baltazar. Kaya naman naming manalo,” said the 18-year-old swingman.
“We proved naman na kaya naming makipag-compete sa one of the best. Siguro, nagka-meltdown lang nang kaunti. Na-guilty ako sa parang selfish na paglalaro ko minsan. I just wanted to help the team. Siguro minsan nag-backfire.”
As a whole, the Bulldogs are a relatively young team relying on rookies or first-year players to carry much of the offensive load.
While a late meltdown is indicative of a team’s youth, Ildefonso doesn’t want this to define his squad.
“Puwede, pero I don’t think it’s gonna be a consistent thing,” Ildefonso added. “Biglaan lang siyang nangyayare (‘yung immaturity). It doesn’t show who we are. It doesn’t show what we’re capable of.
“It just happens.”
Most rookies do not have to play with the same usage rate as Ildefonso. But the second generation cager knows that his team needs this from him.
“He doesn’t even feel any pressure, for now, since this is just the first of his five years in NU.
“Kasi, siyempre, noong nawala sila Jayjay (Alejandro) nawala sila Matt (Salem), kami nila (John Lloyd) Clemente ‘yung mostly tinitignan, ‘yung binibigyan ng plays. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung dahilan kaya kami kinuha – for scoring and mostly all-around. ‘Yun ‘yung responsibility ko sa team,” the Ateneo Blue Eaglet stressed.
“Walang pressure kasi rookie ka. No one really knows you that much. Your rookie season parang defines you. Knowing that I have such a big responsibility, hindi ko iniisip ‘yung pressure. Wala namang nakakakilala sa akin eh,” he added.
“Sino ba ako, ‘di ba?”
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