ENCHO Serrano fired a career-high 29 points as La Salle topped University of Santo Tomas, 92-77, to end its tumultuous first round campaign on a high note in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena yesterday.
The Green Archers will tag along a 3-4 record in the second round, but the victory was what the Taft-based cagers badly needed to boost their sagging morale in the tournament.
It was Serrano who provided the energy in La Salle’s biggest win of the season, as the Pampanga native hit 13-of-22 from the field to go with five rebounds and two assists.
“Ako, kaya ko siguro nagawa iyon kasi minotivate ko sarili ko na yung tiwala sa akin ng coach ko, maibalik ko. Minsan kinakausap na nila ako kung bakit ang tahimik ko. Kilala nila ako e. Nakikita nila ako na maingay lagi, laging tumatawa pero ngayon lagi ako tahimik,” said Serrano.
“Gusto ko ilagay sa isip ko yung gusto nila ipagawa sa akin para pagdating sa laro, magawa ko yung gusto nila ipagawa,” added Serrano.
UST’s coach Aldin Ayo remained winless in his three meetings with the Archers since last season. Ayo handled La Salle for two seasons, winning a title in 2016, before an acrimonious parting of ways the following year forced him to move to España.
UST fell to 4-3 in third place behind defending champion Ateneo and University of the Philippines, which will dispute the top ranking in the first round in a rematch of last year’s Finals at 4 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Later, Xyrus Torres and Pat Tchuente each scored 21 points as Far Eastern University rebounded from a humiliating 22-point loss to National University with an 83-71 conquest of Adamson.
The Tamaraws forced a three-way tie with the Archers and the Falcons from fourth to sixth spots at 3-4, making the race for the last Final Four slot in the second round more interesting.
”We were due to win,” said La Salle coach Gian Nazario. “The way the team has been practicing, it showed in today’s game.”
The Tigers closed in, 54-50, on a Rhenz Abando basket before the Archers made a tear bridging the third and payoff period behind Serrano to post several 17-point leads and never looked back.
“We’re just talking about it, that when our team follows the gameplan, the results will follow after that. We played well against Adamson, we were eight seconds unlucky versus UP, but this time around, we made sure we’ll finish the game well,” said Nazario.
DLSU (92) - Serrano 29, Melecio 26, Malonzo 13, Bartlett 7, Caracut 6, Baltazar 4, Hill 3, Bates 2, Manuel 2, Pado 0.
UST (77) - Paraiso 22, Chabi Yo 16, Abando 9, Nonoy 9, Concepcion 8, Huang 4, Subido 4, Ando 2, Cansino 2, Bataller 1, Cuajao 0, Pangilinan 0.
Quarterscores: 20-14, 42-32, 67-58, 92-77
FEU (83) - Tchuente 21, Torres 21, Stockton 10, Comboy 9, Gonzales 9, Eboña 8, Nunag 4, Cani 1, Alforque 0, Bienes 0, Tuffin 0.
AdU (71) - Chauca 14, Ahanmisi 12, Douanga 11, Manlapaz 10, Camacho 7, Yerro 7, Lastimosa 4, Mojica 4, Zaldivar 2, Bernardo 0, Flowers 0, Fermin 0, Magbuhos 0, Orquez 0.
Quarterscores: 22-15, 38-31, 68-52, 83-71