Michael Phillips La Salle UAAP

La Salle’s Mike Phillips.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—After one of La Salle’s preseason championships in Davao, Francis Escandor approached Mike Phillips and told him words that he would carry moving forward.

“Malayo na pero malayo pa.” (We’ve come a long way but we have a long way to go.)

After the Green Archers’ huge win against Ateneo in the second round of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament, Phillips bared that Escandor’s words resonated with him even after the crucial win that put them in prime position for a twice-to-beat advantage.

“Malayo na pero malayo pa. So we still have a long way to go. It was a great game today going against our rivals, I ran out of energy but they were tired too. They fought hard and so well and I give credit to Ateneo for giving us such a tough, tough win and hopefully we can use this momentum when we get to the Final Four,” said Phillips after their 72-69 win over the Blue Eagles at Araneta Coliseum on Saturday.

“I’m still trying to learn Tagalog and phrases like those just encapsulate so much in just a few words… That kind of stuck with me. Every time you hear words like those and Kobe’s ‘job’s not finished,’ I just love seeing that mindset, that just rubs off on me.”

La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP Season 86 men's basketball tournament.

La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

Phillips—with his newfound proverb in hand—fueled La Salle to its eighth straight win with a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds.

The 6-foot-10 big man, though, knows that their hot streak shouldn’t be a reason for them to have their egos inflated. After all, “malayo na pero malayo pa” applies to them with the ultimate goal of winning the title still far away.

“Even with this [second round] sweep, I don’t want us to be boastful but just to stay humble and just really do our part in staying ready for whoever we’ll face.”

The Green Archers finished No. 2 in the Final Four race with a twice-to-beat advantage after the top three placings have been decided at the end of the elimination round on Sunday.

They will face National University, which wound up third seed, armed with a win-once bonus.

But even before La Salle found out whom it will face in the Final Four, which starts on November 25, Philips said the team has been preparing for the toughest scenario.

“That’s one of the hardest things in the UAAP. Everyone can play and they’re at that level but like coach [Topex Robinson] says, it’s hard to tell who we’ll face,” he said.

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“What we can do is be as ready as we can. We played each team twice now but you all know that when it comes to the Final Four, iba talaga (it’s different).”

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