De La Salle University coach Derrick Pumaren didn’t have to dig deep into his bag of tricks just to fire up his players in their first encounter with rival Ateneo de Manila University in the Season 85 University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament.
All he did was show his boys the date of the last time they beat the mighty Blue Eagles.
“The other day in practice, I showed them the number ‘2017’ and ‘seven’ — that was the last time that La Salle won over Ateneo. I think it was Game 2 in that finals in 2017,” Pumaren said shortly after posting an 83-78 win over Ateneo last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We’ve lost to Ateneo seven straight times. It was an added motivation for the guys.”
The last time La Salle won over Ateneo was in Game 2 of Season 80 best-of-three finals showdown on 29 November 2017 – a 92-83 decision that forced a deciding Game 3.
From there, the Blue Eagles had the Green Archers’ number as they went all the way to dominate the country’s premier collegiate league.
“Most of them are new so they should realize what’s in store, what’s at stake this time. They really went all out to get this victory,” Pumaren said.
But this year was a different story.
With a roaring crowd of 12,056 in attendance, La Salle was active defensively, putting pressure on the Ateneo backcourt and disrupting its game plan.
The Green Archers, in fact, forced 15 turnovers on the Blue Eagles that they converted into 16 points.
La Salle’s perimeter defense made Ateneo shooters bleed for points with its main sniper Forthsky Padrigao being held to only seven points on 2-of-18 field goal shooting. The Blue Eagles also shot a dismal 8-of-37 from the three-point area.
Schonny Winston, who came up with a couple of clutch pull-up jumpers with under two minutes left in the game that keep the Blue Eagles at bay, said the team had this rivalry match marked on their calendar.
“It was definitely a game we had on our schedule for a long time,” Winston said.
The Filipino-American sophomore had 25 points after going scoreless in the first quarter and was a thorn in the side of Ateneo with his stingy defense.
“I was just trying to do everything we could to win. We just all wanted to win really badly in this game.”
Pumaren also gave credit to his bench for coming up with huge 35 points.
“In order for us to win and beat Ateneo, it has to be an all-out team effort,” said Pumaren, who collected their second win in three matches.
“When your number is called, you got to be ready and so, Raven (Cortez) when his number was called stepped up to the challenge. He was able to show what he can do. Earl (Abadam), played a solid game. He was able to do his thing, he didn’t panic. And he played like a veteran.”
Still, Pumaren knows that the battle is far from over.
And they have to be at their best when they face their longtime tormentors in the second round.