Photo from UAAP

MANILA, Philippines — Mark Nonoy and Evan Nelle were down on their knees after La Salle suffered a heartbreaking 72-69 defeat to University of the Philippines in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament.

With 8.6 seconds left, Nonoy had the chance to force overtime attempting a three-pointer from the left corner but his shot hit the top of the board as the Fighting Maroons survived the Green Archers’ late rally on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.

“Well, it was a designed play for him. He was open, but he just missed an open shot,” said La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren. “When there’s an open three, then we’ll take the three-point shot. But he just didn’t make the shot. He had the open shot, but he didn’t make it.”

The former Rookie of the Year and even his fellow transferee, Nelle, couldn’t hide their frustrations after the game, where they were held to just seven points each and combined for poor 5-of-19 shooting.

Pumaren admitted he demanded the two guards to show more fight after their team’s lethargic showing in the first half.

“Well, we had a fight. Because in all honesty, in the first half, it’s like we didn’t have that Animo spirit, and that’s what I challenged them in the second half,” he said. “That’s why we just have to keep having that animo spirit for 40 minutes and keep fighting. They wanted to win. We all wanted to win, but things did not fall right, didn’t fall in the right places.”

Pumaren is not only asking for consistency from Nelle and Nonoy but also for the rest of the Green Archers, who went down by 16 points in the first half before Schonny Winston sparked their late comeback to trim the Maroons’ lead to two down the stretch, 71-69, before they fell short.

“We cannot just play the game for 20 minutes. We cannot play the game for 10 minutes. It’s 40 minutes of basketball. So, I don’t think we played 40 minutes tonight,” he lamented. “Not to take anything away from UP, they really played hard, they outplayed us, they killed us in the first half.“

La Salle remained in the third seed with a 7-4 record and will have a tough final stretch in the eliminations facing Final Four contenders in Far Eastern University (5-6) on Tuesday, Adamson (5-6) on Thursday and National University (4-7) on May 1 in its last three games

For Pumaren, his wards have to “keep pounding and grinding” to reach the Final Four.

“Anything is possible. But we just have to stay positive. We just have to keep working hard, and we just gotta take care of things. We still are not in the Final Four yet,” the La Salle coach said.

”I keep telling the boys that the important thing on Tuesday is how we bounce back on Tuesday. We still control our destiny, we don’t want other teams to do the dirty jobs for us.“

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