The fact that De La Salle and University of the East are the only teams trotting all-Filipino lineups right now in the UAAP wasn’t lost on coach Louie Gonzales.
And right before the game, he saw this as an opportunity for a different learning experience for his boys.
“Before the game, I told them that it will be a great opportunity for us, especially pareho kaming all-Filipino eh. Both of us are also rebuilding. I told the boys from the huddle na ‘let’s try to learn from this one, just try to stick to the system’ especially since I know UE was gonna come out strong tonight,” Gonzales said.
Fortunately for him, La Salle was able to draw key contributions from all places on Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan. Justine Baltazar again proved to be a force in the middle as he recorded 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks, while Aljun Melecio bounced back from his subpar shooting in the first two games to tally 16 points on five three pointers.
“Now na talagang nailagay na siya sa limelight, it’s a change of lifestyle for him. It can’t be only naglalaro siya ng basketball, he also has to take care of himself and he has to take care of his nutrition, rest and image,” Gonzales said of Baltazar’s play.
“I know this kid was just waiting for his time, and this is his time.”
The Green Archers also saw Encho Serrano play his best game for the team as he came up with 11 points, four rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes of play. Mark Dyke, too, filled in at the frontcourt decently and put up five points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“I told the other guys also, like si Mark Dyke and Encho, na I need to prepare for the next three games eh. Next week we’ll have a one week break but after that it’s three games in seven days. Medyo mabigat ‘yung schedule so sabi ko eto na lang ‘yung chance ko para magkaroon ng kumpiyansa ‘yung players ko. I really took that,” Gonzales said.”
“’Di ko lang binigo si coach,” Serrano said. “‘Di ko sinayang ‘yung sinabi ni coach na bibigyan niya ko ng opportunity para kumuha ng kumpiyansa. Binigay ko lahat sa depensa ko hanggang sumunod ‘yung opensa ko.”
With Kiwi frontliner Taane Samuel out until November due to a Jones fracture on his right foot, La Salle will definitely need consistent production from the starting lineup down to the 12th man. And for Gonzales, the only way to do that is by ensuring that every individual decision that all his players will make are smart and solid.
“My lineup right now is a 12-man lineup. All the pieces importante talaga eh. I’m not gonna stop working sa every individual na part ng team ko. Talagang I always see to it na if there’s a situation that will turn around kung ano ‘yung magiging decision-making nila, kung ‘yung susunod na decision nila is magiging align na doon sa iniisip ko, talagang kukunin ko ‘yung opportunity na ‘to,” noted Gonzales.
“Siguro may mga four or five players pa lang na nailagay ko sa spot na ‘yun but we’re still in a process. Marami pa rin akong dapat gawin.”