AWARE of the enormous thrice-to-win disadvantage they were facing against National U, De La Salle-Zobel coach Boris Aldeguer made a surprising move at the start of Game 2 that probably set the tone for an all-important win.
As towering center Justine Baltazar stepped into centercourt while his fellow Bullpups circled around him, Aljun Melecio and his three other Junior Archers teammates immediately formed their defensive line, leaving diminutive playmaker Marco Sario to figure in the opening tip.
Sario, 17, giving up at least a foot to the lanky 6-foot-7 NU center, didn’t even tried to jump for the ball against Baltazar but eventually had the last laugh.
The 5-foot-7 Sario provided the needed outside sniping on Friday as De La Salle-Zobel pierced National U’s cloak of invincibility behind a 71-60 victory and stay alive in their UAAP Season 78 juniors basketball finals series at the Filoil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Sario came up big offensively with a team-high 16 markers, built around four booming triples, as he and forward RM Romero backstopped the 5-foot-11 Melecio in their strong 27-point surge in the third canto that helped them seize control and eventually snapped the Bullpups’ 15-game winning streak dating back to the eliminations.
“I thought we’re fired up with that,” said Sario of their opening-game ploy. “We were pumped up because even if he (Baltazar) is 6-foot-7, we are confident that we can hold the fort.”
Sario also admitted they were also able to hold their nerves, something they struggled to do in their 58-78 loss in the series opener last week.
“We were really nervous during Game 1,” rued Sario. “ So we decided to have myself figuring in the jump ball because we want to show that we can overcome them despite us being one of the smallest teams in the league.”
Sario added they also “played a perfect game against NU,” hoping they could display such form when the Junior Archers take on the Bullpups anew on Game 3 next week at the same venue.
“We’re expecting them to make the adjustments so we just have to work (doubly hard),” said the Makati City native. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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