Pumaren believes D-League stint will help La Salle become a championship-caliber team

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 01 2022 06:04 PM

 The De La Salle Green Archers celebrate after winning the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup. PBA IMages.
The De La Salle Green Archers celebrate after winning the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup. PBA IMages.

MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University's run to the championship in the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup is an encouraging sign as the Green Archers continue to prepare for UAAP Season 85.

This, according to head coach Derick Pumaren after the Green Archers completed a reverse sweep of Marinerong Pilipino in the finals on Wednesday afternoon at the Araneta Coliseum.

La Salle dropped the first game of the series but seized the next two, including a 91-78 rout of the do-or-die Game 3 that saw them withstand a 30-point effort from Marinerong Pilipino guard Juan Gomez de Liaño.

"This is part of the program, part of the process," said Pumaren after the game. "We got to bring our A-game, our best game in the D-League, we had to bring it today."

"I think we really came out hard, came out strong, anticipated that they're gonna come out hard, but we were ready for that, and that's why we took control of the ball game," he added.

It was a wire-to-wire win for the Green Archers, who led by as much as 21 points. But the Skippers made a run in the fourth quarter, getting to within nine points, 79-70, with still over four minutes to play.

The way that his players responded to Marinerong Pilipino's challenge gave Pumaren reason to be even more hopeful for their campaign in the UAAP. CJ Austria scored six straight points to help restore order for La Salle, then assisted on a dunk by Bright Nwankwo when the Skippers came close again inside the final 90 seconds of the game.

Austria, who had eight points, put the game to bed with a layup for an 89-76 lead with 62 seconds to go.

That they were able to close out the championship game and win in comfortable fashion is crucial for the Green Archers' development. It was their waterloo in UAAP Season 84, where they collapsed in a do-or-die Final 4 game against the University of the Philippines and missed out on a championship berth.

"That's why we're here and why we joined this tournament. We just got to be a better team. We don't just want to be better, we want to be a championship-caliber team," Pumaren stressed.

"This is one thing we're gonna work on -- closing out games that we need to win," he added. "We fell short against UP. We won the Final 4 in the first game, but we did not close out."

The loss to UP was painful: La Salle had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter only to surrender a stunning 22-4 run to the Fighting Maroons. The Green Archers had no answer for Carl Tamayo, who scored 12 points in the final period to lift UP to the finals. 

It's the kind of collapse that Pumaren hopes the Green Archers can avoid in Season 85.

"This is part of the program and we're trying to work on it, and I'm pretty sure that this will toughen the team. They responded, and I'm really happy with the way they responded," the coach said. 

There are still other areas of the game to work on. Pumaren wants the Green Archers to be more aggressive on defense and more patient on offense, but by and large he feels that they are on the right track with a little over a month to go before the UAAP season starts.

After their triumph in the D-League, the Green Archers are now headed for an overseas camp in Japan, where they plan to play at least six tune-up games.

Catch replays of UAAP Season 84 games via the UAAP Varsity channel on iWantTFC, available for Premium users outside the Philippines. 


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