For a team that is in prime position to bag a twice-to-beat advantage in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament, La Salle seems to be applying a happy-go-lucky approach.
And coach Topex Robinson, the man responsible for that culture, took the time out to explain.
“We never really are targeting a higher position (in the Final Four). We just want to keep growing,” Robinson said after La Salle creamed University of the East (UE), 86-76, riding the strength of Kevin Quiambao’s second triple-double and the hot hands of point guard Mark Nonoy at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.
The Green Archers bolstered their top two chances with their sixth straight win, and Robinson believes that this is just a byproduct of the new attitude they have ever since he took over before the season.
“Since Day 1, we talked about running our own race. What’s important for us is to build a culture that winning is gonna be the byproduct of what we’re doing,” he said after his Archers rose to 9-3, just a full game behind idle joint leaders University of the Philippines and National University.
La Salle remained undefeated in the second round and Quiambao is a big reason for that after coming up with 17 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists. Those numbers went with four steals and two blocks while Nonoy accounted for 25 points.
“No matter where we end up after the elimination, we’re gonna be OK as long as we keep on enjoying each other’s company and the game,” Robinson went on.
“If ever [a playoff bonus] lands on our laps, we’ll be OK. If we end up in the No. 3, we’ll always be OK.”UE lost for the second straight game and is now on the brink of elimination at 4-8.
Meanwhile, defending champion Ateneo knows the enormous grind that awaits if the Blue Eagles want to keep their Final Four hopes alive, this after a tight 62-58 win over Adamson earlier for solo fourth spot heading into their final three games.
‘In our hands’
“If we [didn’t] win today, I think we have to rely on other people then,” Tab Baldwin said. “But right now, our destiny is still in our own hands and that’s where you wanna keep ‘em.”
The only thing that clicked for the Blue Eagles was the clock that signaled the end of the third, Baldwin said, before the momentum shifted back to Ateneo in the payoff period.
“Honestly, there is a palpable sense of relief in our huddle when the third quarter finished. And that’s scary,” added Baldwin, who also admitted to being clueless what went wrong with his crew after halftime.
Ateneo’s composure and adjustments helped the Eagles take the game back with a 20-9 output in the final period after giving up a 38-29 advantage at halftime.
“It’s obviously mental, not physical. And if it’s mental, it’s fixable. We just have to figure out what that formula is,” he added after dealing the Soaring Falcons their seventh loss in 12 games.
Ateneo, which hasn’t had the easiest season so far with fluctuating performances, evened its standing again to 6-6 after eliminating University of Santo Tomas in its last game.
“Did we do anything special in the fourth quarter? No. We just looked up the score board and we’re down seven. We just knew we had to really dig in and change our conditions if we wanted to change the outcome,” Baldwin said with the Blue Eagles only banking on sheer will in the fourth.
“[We have to] make sure we don’t have a let down and come out and earn the right to continue playing this season,” Baldwin went on. INQ