MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University experienced another heartbreak on Wednesday afternoon when they were stunned in the dying seconds by University of the Philippines (UP), 72-71, in the UAAP Season 82 tournament.
Leading for most of the game, the Green Archers broke down in crunch time as Aljun Melecio's pass was picked off by UP's Juan Gomez de Liano. The former UAAP Rookie of the Year then pulled up for the game-winning three-pointer with 7.8 seconds left, and La Salle's final possession went awry.
The defeat dropped La Salle to 2-4 and into a share of fifth place along with Far Eastern University – certainly not a comfortable position for a team with Final 4 aspirations.
Yet for Melecio, who scored 16 points in the loss but also committed 4 turnovers, the struggles they are going through right now should only toughen up the Green Archers for the second round of the competition.
"Para sa akin, kailangan namin pagdaanan ito," said Melecio.
"Kasi, for sure, mas mahirap sa round 2. Parang mas may mga magagamit kami para sa round 2," he explained. "So 'yung experience namin this game, malaking bagay 'to na makakatulong sa amin, coming to round 2."
Even his own brutal turnover that led to Gomez de Liano's go-ahead shot has been charged to experience for Melecio. The diminutive guard tried to get the ball to Kurt Lojera in order to avoid a backcourt violation, and never saw Gomez de Liano coming.
"Nagulat din ako, andoon pala si Juan," he admitted.
"It's okay. It's learning experience. Experience ko, para magamit ko for round 2, and hopefully, sa semifinals," said Melecio.
The Green Archers have one game left to play in the first round – a date with former head coach Aldin Ayo and University of Santo Tomas on Saturday. For La Salle, it is already a must-win.
"Dahil natalo kami this game, marami na kaming motivation coming to our next game," Melecio pointed out. "Of course, kailangan ng panalo, and 'yun nga, excited ako makalaban si Coach Aldin."
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