MANILA, Philippines – FEU was daring La Salle’s shooters to let it fly.
The Tamaraws knew the Lasallians had an advantage in the post, and the latter was quick to capitalize on it. Big men like Arnold Van Opstal, Jason Perkins, Norbert Torres and Yutien Andrada were attacking inside, looking to punish FEU’s interior defense.
But then, the Tamaraws decided La Salle wouldn’t beat them by continuously dropping the ball in the paint. Nope. If the defending UAAP champions were going to beat them, it would have to be by shooting them down, figuratively speaking, of course.
So La Salle did. The second AVO, Perkins, or any other La Salle big grabbed hold of the ball inside, another FEU defender came to swarm them, forcing the kick out to an open shooter. And for most of yesterday’s game between both squads in the FilOil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup quarterfinals, Thomas Torres was left wide open. And he made FEU pay.
The former La Salle Greenhills star finished with seven three-pointers on 11 attempts and 23 points to lead the guys in green and white. Five of Torres’ threes came in the third quarter, when DLSU built a cushion that seemed to be enough to let them hold on for the victory. But of course, this is DLSU, so FEU rallied. But late in the game with the Tamaraws smelling blood – and a potential collapse – Torres hit another three, giving his team some momentary breathing room.
The Green Archers won the fight, 94-89, and advanced to the semis where they will face the Southwestern University Cobras.
“Actually, every day we do extra work. So, today nag click siya (it clicked),” Torres tried to explain his hot-shooting game in an exclusive interview with Rappler moments after.
It was a great win for La Salle, which a few days ago allowed University of Perpetual Help 41 points in the fourth quarter, paving way for a 22-point collapse and eventual loss.
But it was more enlightening for Torres, who had been out of action prior to Wednesday’s contest.
During practice a few weeks back, the speedy playmaker was elbowed near his eye, leading to some missed time. Torres was unable to participate in his team’s three-game trip to Cebu, where they swept the competition including a victory over the team they’re about to combat with tomorrow.
“It didn’t affect my eyesight, pero it affected ako, paano ako mag laro,” remarked Torres. “Nawala ako sa practice, sa games, so kailangan habulin yung ano na miss ko.”
(It affected me and how I play. I wasn’t participating in practices, in games, so I needed to make up for lost time.)
But needless to say, he didn’t have to deal with the issue without the support of some friends.
“So, what I did was, wala, I just pushed myself hard. And they (his teammates) were there to help me.”
Torres played a foreign role in DLSU’s win yesterday. Rather than starting at point guard as usual, he was requested to come off the bench in favor of Bacolod native Kib Montalbo, who didn’t score much, but managed to keep the turnovers to a low degree in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Torres came outs guns firing and provided a spark off the bench.
It was much needed, especially with resident three-point shooter Almond Vosotros going a paltry 0-of-5 from downtown against FEU.
“Kasi they’re doubling the post and once they kick out the ball, we’re going to be open, so we have to make those threes,” Torres said yesterday, explaining the defensive strategies of some clubs against De La Salle. “Actually, every day we do extra work. So, today nag click siya (today, it clicked),” he later added about his impressive showing.
La Salle didn’t stop after winning the UAAP title last season, going on to prove triumphant in the 2013 PCCL Championship, where they beat Southwestern University in the finals, 2-0, to win the title.
The Cobras are spearheaded by Landry Sanjo and Mac-Mac Tallo, who’s no stranger to the ways of the Green Archers.
In 2012, Tallo was an incoming freshman for La Salle along with Torres and would-be Rookie of the Year, Jeron Teng. The Cebuano was awarded the starting PG role at first, but lost it to Torres later on. On Friday, Mac-Mac and his guys from Cebu will look to eliminate the team that ousted them in the PCCL.
“We’re not afraid of FEU, we’re not afraid of La Salle,” Tallo remarked after his team’s quarterfinals victory over JRU last Monday, and a day before the Green Archers-Tamaraws tilt.
Southwestern beat La Salle in the Final Four round of the last PCCL tourney behind 13 points, six assists, and six rebounds from Tallo. However, DLSU has won the succeeding three matchups since.
Torres, in comparison, is eager to face his former teammate.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Kasi, one thing is, we were teammates before. And Mac-Mac is good, so I’m up for the challenge.”
And while many will be interested to see what Thomas will do for an encore against SWU, he says not to label him as a shooter, scorer, pass-first playmaker, or anything to bolster the reputation of an individual. At the end of the day, he just wants to be the guy that ensures his team comes out on the winning end.
“For me, I’m more of a player na gusto ko muna yung team (that my first priority is the team). I think about the team first. Because if you’re a good player, pinapagaling mo yung teammates mo (you make your teammates better),” he promised.
“And that’s me.” - Rappler.com