MANILA, Philippines -- Knowing that a loss would spell the end of his collegiate career, De La Salle University captain Justine Baltazar made sure to set the tone for the Green Archers in their UAAP Season 84 Final 4 game against the University of the Philippines (UP) last Wednesday.
"Balti" scored eight of his 15 points in the opening quarter, and was a big factor in La Salle's superb start to the game. They led by as much as 22 points, before Evan Nelle finished off what Baltazar started and helped the Green Archers complete an 83-80 win.
"Sabi nga ni coach, wala ng bukas," said Baltazar, who finished with 15 points, 18 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in the game. "Talagang bigay na namin talaga 'yung best namin."
"Sobrang thankful talaga ako sa mga coaches kasi pinagtrabahuhan talaga nila 'to. Naging maganda 'yung resulta," he added.
Thanks to the win -- their first over UP in Season 84 -- La Salle forced a deciding game for a spot in the finals, where defending champion Ateneo de Manila University is already waiting.
Baltazar, a two-time Mythical Team selection, said he took it upon himself as the team's veteran leader to help the team get off to a good start.
"Last year ko na rin," noted Baltazar, who is tipped to be a high pick in the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft, should he join it. "Kailangan talaga, sa amin mag-start."
"Kailangan maganda laro namin talaga dito para 'yung mga rookie talaga dito, mag-step up talaga. So ayun, pinag-trabahuhan lang naman talaga namin," he added.
He is grateful that he received plenty of support from his teammates, notably Nelle who exploded for a career-best 26 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. The point guard scored 10 points in the fourth period, helping the Green Archers fend off the Fighting Maroons' comeback attempt.
"Hanggang dulo, walang bumitaw talaga," Baltazar said of his team.
Baltazar and the rest of the Green Archers will be back in action on Friday, when they take on the Fighting Maroons in a win-or-go home contest.
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