AFTER La Salle absorbed a 30-point beatdown from the hands of University of the Philippines in the series opener, the biggest Finals losing margin in the Final Four era, coach Topex Robinson got a boost from one of the most decorated UAAP men’s basketball coaches.
“After that game, coach Tab (Baldwin) messaged me and told me, ‘Whether you lost by 30, whether you got clobbered, whether you really kinda doubted it, it’s still one loss. What’s important is it takes two wins to win a championship’,” said Robinson.
The Green Archers overcame a 10-point deficit in Game 2 to level the series and toppled the Fighting Maroons in the Finals decider Wednesday night to end a seven-year title drought before a record crowd of 25,192 fans at the fabled Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I kind of picked up myself from that and I tried to look for ways to make sure that we’re gonna learn from our mistakes,” said Robinson.
La Salle responded from a sound 67-97 beating in Game 1 with a series-tying 82-60 blowout win, before the momentous 73-69 victory in Game 3 that gave Taft-based program a 10th championship.
Robinson joined an elite list of Green Archers coaches who won the title in their first year, following the footsteps of Franz Pumaren (1998), Juno Sauler (2013), and Aldin Ayo (2016).
As UP is licking the wounds of its second straight bridesmaids finish, Robinson praised the Fighting Maroons for pushing themselves to the limit.
“Credit to UP. They pushed us and challenged us to our core. It brought out and unleashed the fighters in these guys. I’m so grateful and honored and privileged to be part of DLSU,” said Robinson.
In his swan song with the Green Archers, Evan Nelle made sure that every moment in the league’s biggest stage count.
In Game 2, despite having just four points, Nelle was solid in other departments, hauling down 12 rebounds, dishing out 10 assists, and recording five steals.
In the clincher, Nelle had 12 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals.
A former NCAA champion from San Beda, Nelle didn’t fail La Salle and he will leave UAAP as a winner.
“I’ve been through so much ups and downs,” said Nelle.
“I don’t think it would end like this to be honest. We envisioned this but there will be doubts of course after the first round but this man right here, these two guys they always picked me up,” added Nelle, who credited Robinson and his teammates.
Of course, the Green Archers’ return to the throne would not be possible without Kevin Quiambao, the season and Finals MVP.
The Game 1 defeat was hard to bear for Quiambao, as La Salle legend Mac Cardona’s advice helped him bounce back in the series.
“Thank you, Kuya Mac. Love you,” said Quiambao.
In the Finals, the Muntinlupa native logged averages of 14.66 points, 9.33 rebounds, 2.33 assists, and 2.0 blocks, including an effort of 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in the decider.
The 6-foot-6 all-around player’s skillset was said to be fit for international standard as he molds his game to NBA MVP Nikola Jokic – an ongoing trend for big men these days.
With the hard grind this season, Quiambao is taking a much-needed break, which could ultimately decide his future with the Green Archers after his soul-searching.
“For now, magbabakasyon kasi ako sa Japan sa December 15. Bakasyon lang. Hindi ko pa alam,” said Quiambao.