The De La Salle Green Archers leaned on the broad shoulders of Justine Baltazar to get back into the win column following a 65-59 decision over the UE Red Warriors Wednesday at the SM MOA Arena.
Baltazar posted another solid double-double performance of 23 points and 12 rebounds to help La Salle rebound from its previous loss. Jamie Malonzo and Encho Serrano netted 12 points apiece while Brandon Bates contributed nine points and 10 boards.
"It was tough for us after that Ateneo game, we only got two days to prepare," said La Salle coach Gian Nazario. "We were lucky that we were able to pull through."
Coach Nazario revealed that a handful of his players were sick prior to their matchup against the Red Warriors. A total of seven players had the flu, with three more being injured. Even Baltazar came from the hospital yesterday along with point guard Aljun Melecio.
"We weren't sure what kind of team we will have today," said Nazario. "We weren't sure if they will be able to push through with the fatigue, understanding what they've been going through the past 48 hours. Again, we're happy that we were able to pull this win out. We really needed this one."
Fortunately, La Salle came out sharp and prepared with Baltazar at the forefront. The Green Archers outscored the Red Warriors, 23-13, in the fourth quarter. Baltazar led the charge and showcased his terrific post play, giving his defenders different looks on offense. When La Salle was down by three, 49-52, the versatile big man single-handedly scored six straight points to give his team the lead for good. UE kept within striking distance in the final minutes but Baltazar was able to ice the game with a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining.
Rey Suerte dropped 17 points for UE but was responsible for five of his team's 19 turnovers. Alex Diakhite also had a big game of 11 points and 20 rebounds but it was not enough to give the Red Warriors the victory. Fiery guard Philip Manalang chipped in with 14 points and six boards.
"Just like coach Gian said, we needed this win," added active consultant Jermaine Byrd. "If we wanna get to our goal of reaching the Final Four, every game for us is a playoff game against a great team. I'm proud of our guys, like coach Gian said, a lot of them are sick but a lot of them fought through. It was a total team victory."
The Green Archers remained in the thick of things, forcing a three-way tie with the FEU Tamaraws and UST Growling Tigers with identical 5-5 records. The Red Warriors, meanwhile, have lost three in a row and drop to 3-8 in the standings.
LA SALLE 65 - Baltazar 23, Malonzo 12, Serrano 12, Bates 9, Melecio 4, Manuel 3, Caracut 2, Cagulangan 0, Cu 0, Lim 0
UE 59 - Suerte 17, Manalang 14, Diakhite 11, Conner 9, Mendoza 7, Apacible 1, Antiporda 0, Beltran 0, Camacho 0, Cruz 0, Pagsanjan 0, Tolentino 0
QUARTERS: 14-13, 26-28, 42-46, 65-59
In their first round matchup, Rey Suerte was the hero for UE, scoring 31 points, including the game-winner trey.
La Salle got 22 points off of UE's 19 turnovers.
DLSU - October 19 vs FEU at Ynares Antipolo
UE - October 20 vs ADMU at Ynares Antipolo