Finals in sight for La Salle
Coach Aldin Ayo feels restless every time he steps with his La Salle Green Archers on the UAAP floor.
The tension will certainly build up tenfold as the Archers face arch-nemesis Ateneo Blue Eagles at 4 p.m. today at Smart Araneta Coliseum in the most thrilling rivalry in college basketball.
“Some of the guys are excited. Me? I’m nervous,” said Ayo as they aim to move one game away from a probable elimination-round sweep of the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tourney.
“But I like it when I feel nervous. It brings out the best in me and forces me to work harder. It’s a sign that I should not be complacent,” he added.
Ayo missed the fabled Ateneo-La Salle rivalry in the first round due to suspension while team captain Jeron Teng also had to stay on the sidelines because of a recent surgical operation on his foot.
The Archers throttled the Eagles, 97-81, in that match, but Ayo is expecting a way much tougher outcome this time.
Ateneo is running third with a 6-4 record behind La Salle (12-0) and Far Eastern University (8-2).
Restraining Ben Mbala is a cause for great concern for the Blue Eagles as well as the fierce La Salle full-court trapping defense anchored on guys like Aljun Melecio, Ricci Rivero, Kib Montalbo, Thomas Torres and Andrei Caracut.
But apart from the matchups and the excitement the rivalry could bring, the Eagles would like to focus more on themselves.
“We’re going against a tough opponent and we’re happy that we’re maturing,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
Another victory by the Archers will leave the defending champion Tamaraws as the only stumbling block for them to pull off a rare 14-0 sweep that will shove them straight to the best-of-three Finals.
In the 12 noon opener, the slumping National U Bulldogs (4-8) aim to regain their composure against the UE Warriors (2-9).
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