By Jerome Lagunzad
That’s exactly what National University coach Jamike Jarin told his players after the Bulldogs gave the defending champion La Salle Green Archers all they could handle before dropping a 115-109 decision in their high-octane showdown in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament over the weekend.
NU, putting premium on quickness and its vastly-improving inside game, stayed on the coattails of La Salle majority of the way and even seized control in the third canto at 80-69, only to run out of steam during a frenetic finish.
But Jarin felt the Bulldogs have nothing to be ashamed of despite absorbing their first loss after two tries.
“I’m proud of the boys that we really played well. I’m really happy. I’m proud of this game that these young men were able to compete against this basketball team,” he told sports scribes without any tinge of regret at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum lobby.
“Me personally, I enjoyed the game. Just seeing our kids compete with the best college team? It was magnificent. It was a very exciting game and both teams just didn’t give up. Unfortunately on our end, we lost the game. But I’m sure everybody enjoyed.”
And so did the Bulldogs, primarily rookie Jordan Bartlett who offered a glimpse of what he’s capable of with a game-high 23 points while holding his ground against his Green Archers counterparts and their vaunted “Mayhem” defense.
“It was good run for us,” admitted the 5-foot-11 Fil-American guard. “I think that’s just experience towards the end.
We let their run control the game towards the end but I’m happy with the way we played. I think we have good momentum going into the rest of the season.”
The Green Archers, however, may have gained immediate momentum as they unleashed their full offensive arsenal anew in scoring their second straight victory despite missing the services of reigning league MVP Ben Mbala.
La Salle wingman Ricci Rivero bounced back from an anemic showing in the opener as he racked up 21 points, including the insurance bucket off a feed from elder brother Prince for a 112-107 lead with 25.3 seconds left.
And the Green Archers’ valuable championship experience just came to the fore, admitted Jarin.