Great teams are defined by their victories and championships, but equally important is how they achieve these. These esteemed groups can at times make things look easy, but much of that comes from painstaking preparation and some teaching moments that are more often than not done behind the scenes.

The DLSU Green Archers continue to assimilate themselves into head coach Topex Robinson’s system, earning wins along the way. It’s not without its own bumps, but when you look back at previous years, Robinson and the rest of La Salle have made headway at a much earlier time.

A tough loss to the UP Fighting Maroons in the finals of the 2023 FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup must have lit a fire under DLSU (under the name EcoOil La Salle) as they swept the Marinerong Pilipino San Beda University Red Lions in the 2023 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.

The feat of back-to-back titles is well and great, but the journey the Green Archers had to go through may matter more especially in the long run. La Salle teams in recent years had a hard time closing out crucial games. Execution became sloppy and the games at times slipped away from them.

This year, though, they seem to have had a good handle on things.

Being down big or holding a double-digit lead was not so much a problem now as DLSU found ways to crawl back or finish things off. The Green Archers weren’t fazed and stuck to their system, knowing they could find teammates at the right time.

Game 2 of the 2023 D-League Aspirants’ Cup Finals was a prime example of such, as the Red Lions roared back and took the lead a few seconds before halftime. Mark Nonoy responded with a 3-pointer to hand La Salle the lead back as the second quarter ended, with Evan Nelle and Aspirants’ Cup MVP Kevin Quiambao spearheading DLSU’s efforts in the second half. The offense was buoyed by 3-point shooting, but it was the team’s defense that stymied San Beda, forcing them to move the ball around but to not much success. 

That type of response is something Robinson should be pleased with. Gian Nazario was the Green Archers’ head coach for the Aspirants’ Cup and although he did call a timeout on a few occasions, Nazario allowed his players to figure things out on their own. All the more the players took ownership of their actions and that made wins like this even more sweeter.

With all their preseason stints having been concluded, La Salle will now set their sights on the UAAP. It’s been reported that they will train abroad and play against local and foreign teams as they ramp up their preparations for Season 86, which is slated to begin in October.

The next challenge though, for Robinson, Nazario, and the rest of the DLSU coaching staff will be working on sustaining the effort the Green Archers have played with thus far. October is still more than three months away and training can only do so much. Tuneup games will definitely fill the void, but the patience the staff can instill could pay dividends when they encounter tough times in the UAAP.

This long break also allows La Salle to rest some of its players who have played in all three preseason tournaments, which at times were back-to-back affairs. It forced the hand of the DLSU coaching staff, as they had to choose when to play certain players, although it also allowed the new recruits and the seldom-used players to get some extra opportunities. During Game 2 of the 2023 Aspirants’ Cup Finals, Nonoy, Nelle, and even Joaqui Manuel suffered injuries and any rest they can get now will do them well.

For the past two years, the DLSU Green Archers have lorded over the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup, but that has pretty much been their biggest achievement in the last five years. Recent months have, however, revealed some qualities that could lead to even greater things later on this year, and the Lasallian community hopes these intangibles can serve as the recipe for their success.