Ateneo holds on, beats La Salle in Game 1 of UAAP Finals
Isaac Go didn’t need to put up gaudy numbers to once again be the hero for Ateneo. He just had to be at the right place at the right time.
The 6-foot-7 big man scored the deciding basket as Ateneo pulled off a gutsy 76-70 win over defending champion La Salle in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball Finals Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Go made the undergoal stab off a bounce pass from Thirdy Ravena with only 10.4 seconds left to seal the Blue Eagles’ victory.
He finished with just five points, but three of those came when it mattered most as his three-point play in the waning seconds of the game.
But it wasn’t just Go alone as Ateneo used a balanced attack anew to match the Archers’ firepower.
Ravena paced Ateneo with 12 markers, six boards, and four dimes, Matt Nieto fired 11 points, three assists, and two rebounds despite being cut above the left eye late in the first half, and twin brother Mike Nieto ignited the rally in the fourth quarter as he collected seven of his 11 markers in the fourth period, on top of his five rebounds.
Nieto’s explosion early in the final frame allowed the Blue Eagles to take a 69-59 lead with 6:34 left to play.
The Green Archers, however, leaned on Aljun Melecio as the diminutive guard led La Salle’s 11-2 blast that cut the Blue Eagles lead down to, 70-71, with 2:32 remaining.
Ravena gave Ateneo a bit of breathing room with a bucket with 2:11 left, but La Salle just couldn’t get an answer as Melecio and Ricci Rivero failed to find the bottom of the net in their attempts late.
Ateneo shoots for a sweep and its first title since UAAP Season 75 in Game 2 on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Two-time UAAP MVP Ben Mbala was limited to a season-low eight points and 12 rebounds as he tried to play through foul trouble.
Melecio carried Green Archers with 24 points on 5-of-13 shooting from downtown, to go along with three assists and two rebounds, while Rivero had 10 markers and three boards in the losing cause.
ATENEO 76 – Ravena 12, Ma. Nieto 11, Mi. Nieto 11, Asistio 10, Tolentino 9, Black 7, Verano 5, Go 5, Ikeh 4, Tio 2, Mamuyac 0, Mendoza 0, Porter 0
DLSU 70 – Melecio 24, R. Rivero 10, Mbala 8, Tratter 7, Santillan 7, P. Rivero 7, Baltazar 4, Montalbo 3, Caracut 0, Go 0, Tero 0, Paraiso 0.
Quarters: 26-14, 43-39, 60-58, 76-70.
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