MANILA, Philippines — After one of La Salle’s preseason championships in Davao, Francis Escandor approached Mike Phillips and gave him words he would carry forward.
“Malay na pero malayo pa.” (We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.)
After the Green Archers’ huge victory over Ateneo in the second round of the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament, Phillips confessed that Escandor’s words stuck with him even after a key victory that put them in prime position with a two-to-over lead.
“Malay na pero malayo pa. So we still have a long way to go. It was a great match against our rivals. I had no energy, but they were tired too. They fought hard and fought well and I’m grateful to Ateneo for giving us such a tough, tough win and I hope we build on that momentum when we get to the Final Four,” Phillips said after a 72-69 victory over the Blue Eagles at Araneta Coliseum on Saturday.
“I’m still trying to learn Tagalog, and phrases like that just pack so much into just a few words… It stuck with me. Whenever you hear words like “Kobe’s job isn’t done yet”, I just love seeing that attitude and it just works for me.
Phillips – with his newfound proverb in hand – led La Salle to its eighth straight victory with a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds.
But the 6-foot-7 big man knows that their hot streak shouldn’t be a reason for them to inflate their egos. After all, their motto is “malayo na pero malayo pa” and the ultimate goal of winning the title is still a long way off.
“Even with this [second round] I don’t want us to brag, but for us to stay humble and really contribute to being ready for whoever we face.
The Green Archers finished 2nd in the Final Four race with a two-to-come lead after the top three spots were decided at the end of Sunday’s qualifying round.
They will face National University, which finished third, armed with a one-time win bonus.
But before La Salle learned who it would face in the Final Four, which begins Nov. 25, Philips said the team was preparing for the most difficult scenario.
“This is one of the hardest things in the UAAP. Anyone can play and they are at that level, but they act like a coach [Topex Robinson] says it’s hard to say who we will face,” he said.
– All we can do is be as ready as possible. We’ve played each team twice now, but you all know that when it comes to the Final Four, iba talaga (it’s different).”