MANILA, Philippines–La Salle imposed its defensive might right from the opening tip and then tightened the noose during the most critical times to pull out a gutsy 71-66 decision over University of the East late Saturday night in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Newcomer Schonny Winston topscored with 22 points, hitting several tough baskets in the second frame, where the Green Archers broke the game wide open, and in the final three minutes, when the Red Warriors threatened to come back.
“We’ll have to take it take it (the victory),” returning head coach Derrick Pumaren said on the heels of the contest, where his charges nearly suffered a meltdown after enjoying leads as big as 18 points.
“We made a lot of mistakes. There are lot of things to do right now. We still have to correct a lot of things, but I’ll take the W tonight. We’ll just have to come in and work, work, work on our game.”
Star forward Justine Baltazar put up 12 points and 11 rebounds while former San Beda star Evan Nelle chipped in 11 points spiked with three assists and four steals as the Green Archers joined the Tamaraws, the Bulldogs and the Blue Eagles among the opening-day winners.
Winston added six rebounds and three steals to his name in a rousing debut that no longer surprised Pumaren.
“I kind of expected what he could do,” he said of the Filipino-American guard. “Things weren’t going right for us offensively but he made big shots in the end, and he made a big three that proved to be our cushion.”
According to Pumaren, Winston wasn’t even playing his natural position, as he is being asked to cover for Josh David who is currently injured.
“I had to put him in that wing position,” he said.
Nico Paranada and Harvey Pagsanjan both fired 13 for UE in the scoring effort that should still serve as a moral victory after nearly overhauling a massive deficit.
Up next for the La Salle is NU, which escaped Adamson, 71-69, in the earlier contest. The Green Archers and Soaring Falcons square off Tuesday.
LA SALLE 71 — Winston 22, Baltazar 12, Nelle 11, Nwankwo 10, Lojera 6, B. Phillips 4, Austria 4, M. Phillips 2, Manuel 0, Lim 0.
UE 66 — N. Paranada 13, Pagsanjan 13, Lorenzana 11, Antiporda 6, Sawat 5, Escamis 4, Villanueva 4, Tulabut 3, K. Paranada 2, Catacutan 2, Je. Cruz 2, Ja. Cruz 1, Abatayo 0, Beltran 0.
Quarters: 22-15, 47-31, 60-49, 71-66.
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