|DLSU Green Archers' veteran center Justine Baltazar shoots a floater against UP Fighting Maroons' Javi Gomez De Liaño. Rick Johnsen Dela Cruz/Dugout Philippines|
By Kevin Estrada
SAN JUAN -- New look, same Taft swag.
La Salle played like they are not in rebuilding mode, surviving a late fightback by UP to open their campaign in the FilOil Flying V Premier Cup with a 82-79 nailbiter Saturday evening at The Arena.
The Green Archers of Louie Gonzales shrugged off the off-season drama that hounded them, as he leaned on the rookie twin towers of Brandon Bates and Taane Samuel to pull the rug under the Fighting Maroons in the curtain raiser of the twelfth installment of the country's top preseason tilt.
Justine Baltazar lead La Salle with 16 markers, with the Kiwi big man backing him up with a dozen to his name to go along with seven boards.
Incoming sophomore Juan Gomez de Liaño lead all scorers as he fired for 21, with Bright Akhuetie made his formal debut for State with a double double of 12 points and 15 rebounds, but the transferee from Perps was bogged down by careless ball handling as the twin tower combo of Bates and Samuel forced him to lose possession seven times.
After a close first half that ended tied, La Salle outlasted UP in the third as they matched the latter's 12-3 burst by closing the third frame with a 9-0 bomb to take a six-point lead.
La Salle extended their advantage to a dozen in the fourth on Samuel's trey with 4:09 left in the final canto but nearly blew it when UP made a late uprising to pull within a point in the final 4.5 seconds with a Diego Dario triple.
However, Paul Desiderio's desparation heave went all board to gave the Archers a winning reprieve after a chaotic off-season.
La Salle 82 – Baltazar 16, Samuel 12, Caracut 11, Santillan 9, Montalbo 9, Bates 9, Melecio 8, Corteza 4, Go 3, Dyke 1, Capacio 0
UP 79 – Juan Gomez de Liaño 21, Dario 16, Akhuetie 12, Desiderio 9, Vito 8, Javi Gomez de Liaño 7, Jaboneta 3, Manzo 2, Murrell 1, Prado 0, Tungcab 0, Gozum 0, Lim 0
Quarter Scores: 20-15, 36-36, 58-52, 82-79
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