The DLSU Green Archers bested the CSJL Knights, 93-77, behind 45 points and 17 rebounds from Ben Mbala. Ricci Rivero added 17 points in the winning effort, while Jerrick Balanza tallied 22 points for Letran in the loss.
After the game, Aldin Ayo emphasized the importance of his team’s unselfish play in a win that saw La Salle dish out 20 assists. “Hinahanap namin yung high-percentage shot, hinahanap namin yung best shot and for us naman yung best option namin is mapunta kay Ben.”
(We’re trying to find the high-percentage shot, we’re trying to find the best shot and for us, the best option is to go to Ben.)
Mbala asserted his dominance early in the game as he proved to be dominant against the Knights’ interior defense. This was highlighted by last year’s UAAP Most Valuable Player being able to convert on two consecutive three-point plays to start the tilt.
Adding to the DLSU attack, Rivero made his first three-point basket midway through the first quarter, which was then followed by a fast break play from Aljun Melecio and Mbala, which saw the latter finish with a slam.
While the collective efforts of the team led to a 20-14 lead towards the end of the first quarter, Balanza made two free throws to cut the La Salle lead to four at the end of the first quarter.
The succeeding period started with CSJL veteran Balanza making back-to-back threes and a transition layup. This sequence caused the second lead change of the game, in which there were two deadlocks and four total lead changes. DLSU had fluid ball movement throughout the half which helped them shoot a blistering 48 percent from the field, as compared to Letran’s 40 percent.
It was a back-and-forth affair, however, for both teams until Melecio sparked an ensuing 11-0 scoring run with a three-pointer. The run served as a pivotal moment for La Salle as it gave them a 13-point cushion, 45-32, heading into half-time.
The Taft-based squad started strong as it began the third quarter, taking advantage of the numerous misses of Christian Balagasay. DLSU also took advantage of several miscues from the likes of Bong Quinto and was able to turn those turnovers into points on the other end. In addition, Mbala was again dominant, as he led the team with 15 points in the quarter.
However, the number of fouls committed by the Green-and-White placed them in the penalty early, and the Knights were able to get to the free throw line 16 times in the quarter, though only converting on nine of those shots. In general, CSJL struggled to gets its offense flowing with Balanza being the one bright spot as he paced Letran with eight points in the third quarter alone.
Coming into the last quarter, CSJL continued to have a difficult time gaining any momentum as the suffocating defense of the Justine Baltazar-led Lasallians forced a number of difficult shots and turnovers for the Knights. With DLSU leading by 22 points, 80-58, with 7:58 minutes left in the game, a timeout for CSJL was called. This proved to temporarily work wonders, as the Knights subsequently went on a 6-0 run before La Salle answered back with a three-point shot, courtesy of Melecio. A steal and lay-up by Rivero with a minute left essentially ended all hopes for a Letran comeback.
La Salle’s defense once again served as a crucial factor in the win against the Knights. The Green-and-White had a total of seven blocks and steals against the Knights. CSJL, though, was able to force 24 turnovers which helped them stay close throughout.
Though it wasn’t a perfect performance, Ayo believes this will help the team as it continues its preparations for the UAAP. “Everything that we do right now [is] all just preparation for the UAAP. We make sure na pagdating sa UAAP, lahat ng dapat trabahuin ay gawin.”
(We make sure that once the UAAP begins, we did all the work that needed to be done.)
La Salle improves to a 5-3 win-loss record with the win and advances to the semifinals due to the ADMU Blue Eagles losing to the SBC Red Lions, 82-67, in the game that followed DLSU’s. The next game for the Green-and-White will be against the FEU Tamaraws on June 21 at 5:00 pm at the same venue.
DLSU 93 – Mbala 45, Rivero. Ri 17, Melecio 8, Santillan 8, Baltazar 5, Tratter 4, Capacio 3, Gonzales 2, Caracut 1, Go 0, Tero 0
CSJL 77 – Balanza 22, Quinto 14, Calvo 14, Ambohot 8, Vacaro 6, Caralipio 4, Bagalasay 3, Taladua 3, Pascual 2, Gedaria 1, Pamulaklakin 0, Bernabe 0, Mendreza 0, De Villa 0
20-16, 45-32, 72-54, 93-77