UAAP: La Salle’s Van Opstal relishes first career win over Ateneo
MANILA, Philippines — Arnold Van Opstal knew his team had the edge in height this time around, and he wasn’t about to waste the chance to get his first career win over Ateneo.
Van Opstal pounded hard on the inside, took advantage of the Blue Eagles’ bigs plagued by foul trouble, then delivered 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting in La Salle’s 82-73 win.
This was the first triumph of the Green Archers over their archrivals in seven tries spanning the last three years.
“This is the first time we beat Ateneo. This is our time, they’ve had their time. Let’s make this ours,” said Van Opstal in the post-game interview.
Only Luigi Dela Paz, who also came up big for La Salle, Almond Vosotros and Oda Tampus among the Green Archers have tasted victory over the Blue Eagles.
“We came in with a lot of intensity, and we were pretty focused. I really wanted it, and things happened to work my way,” said the six-foot-eight Fil-Dutch/German.
With no more Greg Slaughter for Ateneo, it left Van Opstal, who also added eight rebounds and two assists, bigger room to operate in the paint.
“I have always been motivated to play Ateneo. This time we were way bigger than them and we wanted to take advantage of that,” he also said.
The Green Archers came out torrid in the second half, overhauling a deficit as big as 14 and turning it into a 54-52 lead — a first — on an and-one by Van Opstal with 1:09 in the third.
Ateneo’s JP Erram and Frank Golla fouled out way before the game was settled and its supposed main guy in the absence of Kiefer Ravena, Ryan Buenafe, had limited production.
La Salle didn’t fail to pounce on that chance as they stretched the lead to the biggest of eight, 74-66, courtesy of a running hook and a freebie by Van Opstal.
“My teammates trusted me with the ball and I paid them back. Them trusting me gave me confidence,” Van Opstal said.