MANILA, Philippines – Evan Nelle took it upon himself to put a glimmer of hope in La Salle’s fading Grand Finals chances, dropping a season-high 25 points in their lead win over the University of Santo. Thomas. during the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Moments after their much-needed win to end the elimination with a 7-7 card, Nelle and the Blue Archers were cheering on their arch rival, the Blue Eagles Ateneo, who were holding the numbers. La Salle’s Four Finals in an ongoing game against the No. 1. 4 Adamson Falcons as of press time.
An Ateneo win would see Adamson take on La Salle in the knockout round for last place in the Finals.
“I just don’t want this to be the last game. Hopefully, a big fight,” said Nelle, who had 8/16 shots from the field and had 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 save, after t.The Archers overcame the tough test against the Roaring Tigers with a score of 77-72.
“This is the first and last time [that I’ll be cheering for them] because our fate is no longer in our hands. We had a chance to control our destiny in the previous UE match, but bad things happened. Now we are dealing with them (Ateneo). I just hope Adamson loses and there’s a rubber match on Sunday, Saturday, whatever,” he added.
Nelle credits his teammates for showing the next man mentality in the absence of Kevin Quiambao, who is ill, and Michael Phillips for the second straight game due to illness. The star defender Schonny Winston has also not been in his best form after suffering a calf injury, playing only a few seconds in the match.
“I’m not ready that Kevin won’t play. We are three men down. Coming to this game, when I got to the arena, I was very excited. Then, hearing that Kevin wouldn’t be playing, it took a toll on our spirits. He was one of our mainstay players, but the coach kept telling us the next one would be up,” Nelle said. “That’s what we did. A lot of people stepped up today, Raven (Cortez), JC (Macalalag), Mark (Nonoy), everyone stepped up because it was a team effort.”
The Green Archers were nine points ahead of the Roaring Tigers entering the fourth round but Nelle refused to give up their last chance.
“This will not be the last match. The coach kept talking once, once stopped. No more defensive mistakes and errors, and get good shots. That’s what we did. We made naman, but we had some flaws. Minutes ago, my bad shots with Mark,” We just bowed our heads, moving on to the next play, bawi lang. Gasgas na nga samin yung bawi lang, but that’s the only thing we’re doing, bawi lang, one stop. It paid off today.”
Fans scoffed at Nelle’s pre-season claim that La Salle was the No 1 team when the team nearly missed the Finals.
But the Green Archers remain adamant that they are a strong team that has faced a lot of adversities such as injuries, suspensions and health issues during elimination.
“I still stand on that opinion. I still believe we are the best team. But you know, a lot has happened, damn it, but, I’m still standing on it. I still believe we are a really strong team,” he said.
Nelle only hopes the Green Archers will have one more chance to save a place in the semi-finals.
“I love my team. I love the coaching staff, my teammates and the managers. I don’t want our story to end like this.. I know for a fact that we can go well. The team has faced a lot of adversity this season. But that’s not an excuse to always lose. I really want to keep playing with these guys, this group. I don’t want to lose,” he said.
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