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Green Archers praying, hoping for miracle


A day before its biggest match of the season, De La Salle University attended a Holy Mass.

Then, it buckled down to training — more intense, more physical than ever.

“We’re down to one last game,” Green Archers assistant coach Oliver Bunyi told Daily Tribune a day before facing University of the Philippines in Game 3 of their Season 86 University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament best-of-three finals series on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“What we have is a battle of adjustments. They crushed us in Game 1, then we bounced back in Game 2. Now, we’re all tied up. It all depends on who’s hungry, on who wants it more.”

La Salle and UP slugged it out in the first two matches of this highly-charged championship duel.

The Fighting Maroons delivered the first blow when it essayed a 30-point massacre of the Green Archers in Game 1, 97-67, sparking speculations that the UAAP trophy is on its way back to Diliman after a detour at the Ateneo de Manila University campus last year.

But the Green Archers refused to easily give up.

“They held a players-only meeting,” Bunyi said, referring to the crucial meeting that led to their 82-60 win in Game 2 that equalized the series and saved their season from falling apart.

“I really know what they discussed but from what I heard, it revolves around accountability and refusing to give up. They don’t want their season to end like this. If ever they go down, they want to go down swinging.”

“That’s why the intensity level was so high in our next practice. Yes, it was physical but we’re glad that they showed that they are ready to match the intensity that UP displayed in Game 1.”

La Salle star Kevin Quiambao confirmed Bunyi’s claim, saying that their hell-like practices following their 30-point disaster in Game 1 keyed their resurgence.

“Before Game 2, I told myself that we can’t lose the series like this. I need to do something,” Quiambao, the runaway Most Valuable Player winner, said.

“That’s why in our next three practices (after Game 1), the intensity was high. We really battered each other. It was really tough love.”

Evan Nelle, who was a defensive lynchpin in Game 2 with five steals on top of 12 rebounds, 10 assists and four points in Game 2, said they are anticipating a very physical battle in Game 3.

“It’s gonna be more physical in Game 3 because I don’t think they wanna lose and we don’t wanna lose as well. So, let’s see who’ll give in,” Nelle said.

Quiambao agrees.

“We will go all out in Game 3. It’s a win-or-go-home for us so I’ll really prepare for that,” he said.

“Now, we’re taking a rest. But tomorrow, it’s gonna be different. We’ll live another day.”

Bunyi said they have already reviewed the tapes, ran through their plays and made all the necessary adjustments to come up with a successful performance in the sudden-death Game 3.

And it’s now up to God to help them complete their miraculous journey from a devastating 30-point beatdown all the way to their first title in five years.

“It’s now or never. There’s no more tomorrow,” Bunyi said before politely excusing himself to join the team in attending the Holy Mass.

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