After being down by as much as 15 points, the DLSU Green Archers came back to defeat the AdU Soaring Falcons, 82-75, earlier today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. With the win, La Salle clinches a spot in the finals for the second consecutive year.
Ben Mbala led DLSU with 27 points, while Santi Santillan and Ricci Rivero were the only other Lasallians who scored in double digits. On the other side, AdU was paced by 17 points from Jerrick Ahanmisi and 16 points from Robbie Manalang, who played his last game in the UAAP today.
“Hindi ko naman iniisip yung ‘Final Four’, one game at a time lang ako, tsaka focused lang talaga sa depensa.” Santillan explained, as he contributed 15 points in the winning effort.
[I don’t think of the ‘Final Four’, I take each game one at a time, and I stay focused on defense.]
AdU sets the tone early
The game began with the two teams looking to outpace one another with intense defense and strategic offense. Trading baskets on both ends, Santillan paced the Green Archers during the opening moments of the game, scoring the first four points for DLSU through jumpers. At the 6:32 mark, Mbala converted a fastbreak lay-up off a Caracut steal.
Despite the efforts of the Lasallians, though, AdU came out of the gate as the more aggressive team as they went on a 14-4 run in the last five minutes of the first period. Jonathan Espeleta and Papi Sarr combined for back-to-back jumpers for the Soaring Falcons. Kurt Lojera chipped in five points for Adamson as he consecutively converted a lay-up and a three-point jumper.
The only means of rescuing La Salle’s score was made through converted free throws from R. Rivero and Montalbo. Pingoy helped keep his team ahead by a comfortable margin as he capped off the first quarter in favor of Adamson, 21-11.
In the hopes of salvaging the team’s score, Montalbo opened the second quarter with a putback. Both teams then shuffled their players, but the lead and momentum remained with Adamson. With 8:59 remaining in the half, Ahanmisi successfully converted a jumper to give the Soaring Falcons their biggest lead of the first half, 12 points.
At the 7:38 mark, Justine Baltazar scored off a putback hoping to spark a change in momentum for the Green Archers. The duo of Mbala and R. Rivero continued to score from lay-ups and converted free throws, as DLSU trimmed AdU’s lead to 25-30.
Later on, the game became physical as both teams were called for a multitude of fouls towards the end of the second quarter. In the end, three-point jumpers from Ahanmisi and Manalang gave the Soaring Falcons a 39-33 lead over the Green Archers at halftime.
La Salle takes over
The Falcons continued to hustle as Ahanmisi made another three-pointer within two minutes of the start of the third quarter. It was then followed by a dunk by Tyrus Hill off a turnover by La Salle. The Hill-Ahanmisi tandem again made plays a couple of minutes later. The off-guard drained another basket from beyond the arc followed by an and-one from the rookie on the fast break off a foul by Andrei Caracut. Mbala was the only Lasallian who scored in the first six minutes of the period. AdU’s tough defense extended its lead by as much as 15 points in the quarter. A short five to nothing scoring run by Mbala trimmed the deficit to ten points.
DLSU continued to attack the paint and managed to produce points from the charity stripe while Sean Manganti and Espeleta made timely baskets to keep La Salle at bay. The Soaring Falcons led La Salle heading into the final frame, 54-63.
Despite the nine-point advantage of AdU, La Salle made a collective effort to spark a 14-0 run in the first four minutes of the quarter. The Green-and-White regained the lead at the 7:10 mark through a perimeter jumper by Aljun Melecio, 64-63. Kristian Bernardo, on the other hand, made back-to-back baskets to ease the bleeding. Moreover, Manalang drained his fourth three-point basket to keep AdU within striking distance, 71-70.
However, La Salle responded with a corner three-pointer from Santillan followed by a slam from R. Rivero off a steal. La Salle’s lead extended to eight as Melecio made a putback after a missed free throw from R. Rivero. The Soaring Falcons made their last basket through a three-pointer from Ahanmisi but La Salle dominated the final period, as it outrebounded its opponent, 20-7, in the last ten minutes. DLSU took control the rest of the way as Caracut’s free throws sealed another trip to the finals for La Salle.
The Green-and White dominated the paint with a total of 36 points. Meanwhile, AdU’s perimeter shooting was sharp as they scored 43 points compared to only 20 from DLSU. Conversely, the Lasallians outrebounded the Falcons. La Salle grabbed a total of 50, whereas AdU only had 35.
After the game, head coach Aldin Ayo again commended Abu Tratter’s play as a crucial aspect of La Salle’s game in the fourth quarter. “It was Abu Tratter, he set the screen to Jollo that started everything, I always tell my players that there are situations that we might not ask for but in your own initiative you have to do it. If you really want to win, you have to do things that are not asked of you.”
The Green Archers now have to wait for the winner of the match-up between the ADMU Blue Eagles and the FEU Tamaraws before the finals can begin.
DLSU 82 – Mbala 27, Santillan 15, Ri. Rivero 14, Melecio 7, Montalbo 5, Caracut 4, Tratter 3, Go 3, Ra. Rivero 2, Baltazar 2, Paraiso 0
ADU 75 – Ahanmisi 17, Manalang 16, Hill 10, Lojera 7, Sarr 6, Bernardo 6, Manganti 5, Espeleta 4, Pingoy 2, Zaldivar 2, Ochea 0
Quarter scores: 11-21, 33-39, 54-63, 82-75