MANILA, Philippines —Injured Evan Nelle could have spelled the difference for La Salle in their match against University of the Philippines on Wednesday, said Green Archers’ coach Topex Robinson.
Robinson admitted they missed the on-court presence of Nelle as the Green Archers fell to the unbeaten Fighting Maroons, 67-64, at Mall of Asia Arena in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.
“People are looking at the three points that we scored in the third quarter. Those missed shots that we made. Those steals we did not make. But we didn’t have Evan coming into this game. I hope people remember that,” said Robinson after absorbing their second straight loss sans their graduating point guard due to a quad contusion.
The Green Archers only blew a 12-point lead and scored three points in the third as the Fighting Maroons unleashed a 21-0 run. La Salle recovered with an 11-0 run in the payoff period but it failed to make the crucial stops on UP, which was saved by Gerry Abadiano’s clutch jumper with a minute left.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Robinson remained proud of the gallant stand by his wards, led by big men Michael Phillips and Kevin Quiambao.
“We have a group of guys that are willing to take care of each other. Try to cover for each other. Those things are hidden because you lost to UP. What’s important is us. These players I deal with every single day trying to be better men. We played the right way. We played our hearts out,” said the La Salle coach. “ Obviously, I’m gonna hit a lot of flak for saying this but we are always gonna be brothers keepers.”
No rush for Nelle
Nelle is probable to play in La Salle’s last first-round game against the University of the East at UST Quadricentennial Pavilion as Robinson is not rushing his recovery.
“Hopefully, we’re gonna have him Saturday but we wanna make sure he’s gonna be ready because the spans of the games will be shorter. We don’t want to rush it. We have other guys willing to step up for Evan. We don’t want to gamble on him if he’s not really ready. That’s gonna be day-to-day for us,” he said.
With a 3-3 record tied with defending champion Ateneo and Adamson, Robinson hopes the Green Archers will use their two consecutive setbacks as motivation to rise in the second round.
“We’re gonna use these losses as a tool for us to get better. It just so happens that we’re representing a program that’s really a successful program. We know that pressure is a privilege for us. They’d rather be here getting judged, people getting mad at us. We’d rather be here because this will only make us better. What these experiences are is just gonna keep us as a team,” the first-year UAAP coach said.
“When we started the season, we knew it’s going to be hard. We embraced hard. We get better at hard. That’s gonna bring us closer as a program. Those breaks will keep us getting better. It humbles us. It grounds us. We are just excited about what tomorrow will bring to us.”
La Salle coach Topex Robinson and Michael Phillips after losing to UP. #UAAPSeason86
Posted by Inquirer Sports on Wednesday, October 18, 2023