The DLSU Green Archers came back from a late deficit to stun the ADMU Blue Eagles, 79-76, earlier today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After the game, Coach Aldin Ayo said, “We’re going to do our part, we’re going to compete, and we’re going to do whatever it takes just do win.”
After a turnaround jumper by Kib Montalbo with 40 seconds left gave the lead to La Salle, key defensive stops and clutch free throws were eventually enough to deter Ateneo from completing the season sweep. With the win, La Salle forces a Final Four format, wherein ADMU will not outright earn a finals berth.
“We just wanted to win, we did not quit, we kept on pushing and we left the rest to God,” said Mbala after having a monster performance, accumulating 28 points, 19 rebounds, six steals, and six blocks. Ricci Rivero also added 21 points in the victory.
For ADMU, Thirdy Ravena scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Isaac Go and Matt Nieto had 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the losing effort.
The second round match-up between the top two teams started with Mbala making two free throws, 45 seconds into the game. The Blue Eagles’ first field goal came at the 7:00 mark as Ma. Nieto converted a three-pointer at the right corner with Ravena providing the assist. Chibueze Ikeh, Santi Santillan, and Raffy Verano exchanged baskets inside the paint but it was Aljun Melecio’s three-pointer that gave La Salle an 11-9 advantage at the 4:21 mark of the first period. The Green Archers were able to build a five-point lead, 17-12, with two minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the first quarter but the Blue Eagles unleashed a 10-0 run to take the lead heading into the second period, 22-17.
Jolo Mendoza opened the second canto with a midrange jump shot but Mbala scored the next nine points for the Green Archers, as the reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player single-handedly trimmed the deficit to two points, 28-26, at the 6:20 mark. Ravena and R. Rivero immediately exchanged layups but Mbala, Santillan, and Melecio each made a free throw to grab the lead back for La Salle, 31-30. Ma. Nieto made a three-pointer from the top of the key in the next possession, while Verano converted a reverse layup to give the Ateneans a four-point lead, 35-31, with 2:51 left in the first half. The Green Archers kept the Blue Eagles scoreless for the rest of the quarter as Mbala and Ri. Rivero combined for six points to end the half strong, 37-35, in favor of the team in Green-and-White.
Although the Lasallians led after the first half, Ateneo clawed its way back in the third period. Ravena asserted himself early on and scored six points in a key 10 to nothing run, to go along with free throws from Anton Asistio at the 7:48 mark. An unsportsmanlike foul was called on Caracut which sent Asistio to the charity stripe and gave possession to ADMU. Ravena was then fouled in the succeeding play from beyond the three-point line as he converted all three bonuses.
Rivero answered back through a fastbreak layup before another ADMU scoring run was unleashed. Remarkable defense gave the Ateneans fastbreak opportunities as Vince Tolentino, Raffy Verano, Ravena, and Asistio built another eight to nothing run. The team from Katipunan led by as much as 10 points in the quarter until a three-pointer from Montalbo right after the three-minute mark reduced the deficit to six. However, Jolo Mendoza brought the lead back to nine. The rookie made a couple of free throws and a three-pointer to beat the buzzer and give ADMU a comfortable nine-point cushion.
The final quarter featured La Salle’s resiliency and mental toughness. La Salle slowly trimmed the lead and made the most out of every possession. Kris Porter opened the final frame with another three-pointer to extend Ateneo’s lead. However, the Green-and-White began their scoring outburst, bannered by Mbala and R. Rivero. The Lasallians managed to produce a 15-5 scoring-run in a span of five minutes, highlighted by spectacular plays from Montalbo, Abu Tratter, and Mbala.
Despite the collective efforts of the team, Vince Tolentino and Ravena made a short run to stop the bleeding and to maintain the lead in favor of the Blue-and-White. However, the 5-0 nothing run by ADMU was also their last instance of scoring in the match as they were unable to score from the 2:21 mark of the fourth quarter until the final buzzer.
Defense proved to be the key for DLSU to scratch Ateneo’s unscathed record. Defensive pressure plays from the whole team resulted in La Salle’s takeover, wherein Tratter seemed to be a significant factor in La Salle’s defense. His help defense on the ADMU guards startled their playmaking resulting to crucial turnovers by Ateneo. The Lasallians finally regained the advantage through a turnaround jumper from Montalbo, 77-76. ADMU, on the other hand, had an opportunity to respond. Isaac Go, though, missed an open lay-up which was slightly contested by Mbala. The Blue Eagles then fouled R. Rivero which sent him to the free throw line wherein he converted both attempts. R. Rivero said, “After nung foul, nag pray na lang talaga ako. Sabi ko, ‘di ko kaya ‘to, ‘di ko kaya gawin anything na di niya ako tutulungan.”
Ateneo’s last effort was an attempt to tie the game by Asistio which was promptly turned back by R. Rivero. DLSU succeeded in returning the favor against their archrivals by negating them an automatic spot in the finals.
The Green Archers begin their semifinal matchup against the AdU Soaring Falcons on November 18, 4 pm, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
DLSU 79– Mbala 28, R. Rivero 21, Tratter 8, Santillan 7, Melecio 6, Montalbo 6, Go 3, Caracut 0, P. Rivero 0, Baltazar 0, Paraiso 0
ADMU 76- Ravena 15, Go 13, Ma. Nieto 12, Verano 9, Mendoza 7, Asistio 6, Tolentino 6, Ikeh 4, Porter 3, Mi. Nieto 1, Mamuyac 0, Black 0
17-22, 37-35, 54-63, 79-76