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Sauler, Teng hope to put La Salle’s end-game woes behind

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The De La Salle University Green Archers’ second round campaign has been turbulent.

Since taking over the helm, Juno Sauler and the Green Archers have been a second round machine. Over the past two seasons, they have recorded a combined 12-2 record in the second round, bringing them once to the Final Four, and another time all the way to the championship.

This season, after ending the first round with a 4-3 record that included wins against the National University Bulldogs, Adamson Soaring Falcons, University of the East Red Warriors, and the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles, the cagers from Taft Avenue weren’t able to feed off that momentum as the second round unfolded.

Setting aside the team’s lone win against UE, La Salle’s end-game meltdowns resulted in tough losses against University of Santo Tomas, Adamson, and, recently, NU.

“We knew that NU was really going to fight [until] the very end because I think one loss for them they’ll be in trouble also when they get to eight losses,” DLSU head coach Juno Sauler said when asked for his thoughts after the loss to NU. “They made a good account of themselves by coming back even when we had stretches wherein we had a good lead but we weren’t able to hold it.”

In those three losses, the team had put up commanding leads in the first three quarters by barreling into the paint often and nailing outside jumpers. But come the fourth, La Salle’s solid play on both ends of the court had unravelled, allowing opposition teams to stage nerve-wracking comebacks.

Taking a look at the numbers in their three second-round losses, La Salle averaged 16 fourth quarter points per game, but gave up 27 fourth quarter points in the process. In addition, they averaged four turnovers during those fourth quarters

“It’s not really [our] scoring. [In fact] we got 20 points in the fourth quarter but we gave up 32 points to NU,” Sauler further elaborated. “So that’s not really our problem [when it comes to] scoring but [it is on] just closing out games and playing better defense.

“Defense talaga. We just have to find a way to play better individual defense and better team defense.”

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Sauler, Teng hope to put La Salle’s end-game woes behind    Team captain Jeron Teng also shared the same thoughts as Sauler regarding the team’s defensive lapses during end-game scenarios.

“Siguro iyon nga, we have to really work on [that], it’s not really our offense, but [more on] our defense,” Teng explained. “First to third [quarters], we do well sa defense pero sa fourth siguro medyo nagrerelax. That is what we have to work on for our next three games.

“Siguro [having] the [right] mindset [din] because, iyon nga, dapat hindi [more] focus sa offense but [more on] our defense and getting stops.”

With the losses piling up for the Green Archers, they now risk losing their Final Four slot if they don’t turn things around. Currently in fourth place with a 5-6 record, and with NU within striking distance at 5-7 , La Salle must win their next three games against ADMU, UP and FEU respectively to enter the Final Four.

“Well kami naman magfocus lang kami sa games namin. We don’t really rely on others’ outcome [aside] from sa games namin,” Teng added. “Whatever happens, lalaban lang kami ng La Salle.”

The next three games for the Green Archers will be crucial in keeping their Final Four hopes alive, as they cannot afford to lose and be kicked out of the top spots. If NU drops in their next set of games, it increases La Salle’s chances of solidifying the last Final Four ticket. For now, their chances of making the post-season are within their control.

“[We have] three tough games and it doesn’t really matter on how NU closes their last two games also,” Sauler closed. “We just have to take care of our own business.”

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