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Archers repel Tams to open title retention bid

De La Salle University's Aljun Melecio during their opening-day tussle with Far Eastern University at the Mall of Asia Arena, Sunday. | Contributed Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Even without the reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player, De La Salle University proved that they are still the lethal team the league has pegged them to be.

The Green Archers opened their bid to keep the men’s basketball championship after holding off a late Far Eastern University Tamaraws rally, 95-90, in Sunday’s UAAP night cap at the Mall of Asia Arena.

And filling up for the void in production is another MVP — from the juniors field that is — in Aljun Melecio, who finished the game with 29 points to go with six boards.

But the La Salle guard noted he’s just giving what is asked of him.

“Mas malaki na talaga ‘yung responsibility ko,” he said. “Gusto ko lang ma-lead yung team.”

Melecio emptied 20 of his total markers in the first half in a game highlighted by two preseason scuffles.

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“Lagi akong nire-remind ng coaches na every time tumama [tira ko] sa labas, i-try ko naman next mag-drive then create for my team mates,” he added.

The Green Archers led by as many as 23 points over the Tamaraws. But the latter team was able to close the gap late in the game behind Ron Dennison and Wendell Comboy.

Despite the opening-day win, Ayo rued the breakdowns on defense.

“I told the guys that we're still a young team. Pagdating sa crunch time, there was questionable decision-making,” he said.

“Same system na tinatakbo namin. Hindi naman sikreto 'yun. Two years nang ginagawa 'yun, so naga-adjust ang mga teams,” Ayo said.

Prior to the tournament, Ayo has noted that the competition will likely catch up to them. Hence, the need to evolve.

But it seems the historic champion coach has already figured it out.

“Ang ginagawa lang namin, ubusan lang eh. Whoever is the toughest sa court, siya mananalo eh,” Ayo said.

Ayo will get to test how tough his Archers really are when they take on NCAA champion coach Jamike Jarin, who now mentors National University. The face off on Saturday at the Big Dome.

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