MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University may have lost its rivalry game to Ateneo de Manila University on Tuesday night, but point guard Evan Nelle took some comfort in seeing one of his hoop dreams come true.
"I've always dreamt of playing in an Ateneo-La Salle game, ever since I was a kid," Nelle said after the game, which saw La Salle fall, 75-68, to the defending UAAP champions. "This is a dream come true for me."
It was the second time that the Green Archers played their archrivals in Season 84. They also lost in the first round, 74-57, in a game held behind closed doors. Their second round match-up was thus more special for the teams, as it took place in front of a crowd of over 11,000 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"It was nerve-wracking," Nelle admitted of the experience. "Sayang lang, hindi kasi blue and green eh, hindi ko ma-distinguish kung sino, which is which. I don't know where to look."
Plenty of fans at the MOA Arena heeded calls by the presidents of both Ateneo and La Salle to wear pink on Tuesday, in a show of support for presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo and her running mate, Senator Kiko Pangilinan.
Despite not seeing the usual sea of green and blue, Nelle said the game was "a really fun experience."
"Siyempre, this is the best rivalry in Philippine sports. So I hope this season, we get to face them again, with full capacity fans," he said.
A transferee from San Beda University, Nelle noted the differences between the crowd in an Ateneo-La Salle game and that in a San Beda-Letran contest. In his last games for the Red Lions, he played in front of capacity crowds at the MOA Arena as well, as they lost to the Knights in the NCAA Season 95 Finals in 2019.
"How do I put in a good way? They get to your skin, they get to your skin. Kasi Beda-Letran, like the crowd gets to your skin," he explained. "They say different things."
"But come Ateneo-La Salle… Did you see, when were doing the alma mater, even Ateneo was cheering for us, they were giving us claps. So that was mutual respect," he added. "That's different."
Nelle had 20 points, four steals and two assists in 30 minutes for La Salle, although he also committed four of their 17 turnovers in the game. It was his highest scoring game so far for the Green Archers.
La Salle dropped to 5-3 in the UAAP Season 84 tournament with Tuesday's loss. They return to action next week against University of Santo Tomas (3-5).