Needing a sparkplug against the grinding FEU defense, rookie Aljun Melecio answered his coach’s call.
Melecio scored 12 points, all in the second half, powering the De La Salle University Green Archers’ 73-67 come-from-behind win against the skidding defending UAAP Men’s Basketball Champions FEU Tamaraws, Saturday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
La Salle ended its elimination round campaign with a 13-1 record. On the other hand, FEU falls to 7-5, dropping to third place.
“Big game after a big loss. We’re grateful for this game because mahirap yung talo na yun (sa Ateneo),” first year La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo said.
Jeron Teng led the way with 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Mbala added a double-double, his 14th double-double of the season, with 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Down by as much as eight points midway through the third canto, 48-40, coach Aldin Ayo desperately looked to his bench for someone who would ignite their offense. And it was rookie Aljun Melecio who stepped up for his team.
Melecio sparked an eight two rally, scoring five point in the rally to give La Salle a momentary lead with 1:52 left. A shot clock-beating triple by Jojo Trinidad stopped FEU’s bleeding entering the final frame.
The two teams then went toe-to-toe in the final frame with no team giving in. Careless turnovers by the Green Archers gave FEU a 65-60 lead with 5:25 left.
That’s when Mbala woke up from his sleep.
A miss by Jeron Teng led to a thunderous putback dunk by Mbala. Turnovers by Prince Orizu and Axel Inigo then led to another Mbala basket. After a failed three-point play opportunity by Inigo that gave FEU a three-point edge, it was Melecio’s turn.
The rookie from De La Salle-Zobel knocked down a cold-blooded triple to tie the game at 67-all with 1:44 remaining. An ill-advised turnaround jumper then led to a quick basket by Jeron Teng to give the league-leaders a two-point cushion with a minute left on the clock.
A costly slip by Jojo Trinidad led to a steal for Melecio and a conversion by Mbala with 43 ticks left to seal the game for the Green Archers.
“We were able to execute our pace on both ends of the floor, both offense and defense. It’s all about execution naman and the good thing is that we were able to convert,” Ayo added.
Both teams were at-par with each other in almost every statistical category in the game. The biggest difference that proved to be pivotal was the difference in free throw attempts. La Salle went 14-of-23 from the stripe while FEU shot just 9-of-15 from the same distance.
Axel Inigo powered FEU with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. Jojo Trinidad added 16 points, with all his field goal coming from downtown. King Tamaraw Raymar Jose was limited to just four points and five rebounds in 26 minutes of action.
The FEU Tamaraws play their final game of the season on Wednesday, November 16, taking on neighbors UE Red Warriors at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
DLSU (73) – Teng 17, Mbala 16, Montalbo 13, Melecio 12, Tratter 5, Caracut 4, Rivero P 3, Torres 3, Paraiso 0, Sargent 0, Baltazar 0.
FEU (67) – Inigo 18, Trinidad 16, Orizu 7, Comboy 7, Arong 7, Escoto 6, Jose 4, Dennison 2, Tuffin 0, Holmqvist 0, Ebona 0, Nunag 0.
Quarterscores: 13-13, 32-35, 51-53, 73-67.