Eagles prey on Archers
La Salle’s vaunted mayhem basketball in Season 79 of the UAAP men’s tourney wasn’t indestructible after all.
Ateneo saw the cracks and unmasked the flaws of a system that has worked wonders for the Green Archers all season long to prevail, 83-71, in college ball’s most revered rivalry last night.
“Our mindset was whoever is inside (the court), he has to give his best,’’ said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga after the Eagles denied the Archers a rare tournament sweep before a virtual sea of blue and green at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Norman Black and Matthew Nieto readily responded with several stealthy moves while George Go was fantastic around the rim in helping contain Ben Mbala.
Antonio Asistio nailed all his threes in the first half that set the tone for the rout and joined forces with John Wong and Thirdy Ravena on energizing the Ateneo backcourt.
“We focused on defense and really battled La Salle on the boards,’’ said Arespacochaga. “But La Salle’s still the number one team. They’re a tough team to beat.’’
Inflicting the Archers’ first defeat in 13 games, the Eagles redeemed themselves from a first-round debacle against La Salle and strengthened their Final Four bid with a third-best 7-4 record.
“We just followed the game plan up to the last man. It’s a great win but we’re still chasing the No. 2 seed and we can’t be complacent,’’ said Go
Tagged as clear underdogs coming in, credit should be given to the Blue Eagles for a spectacular job.
They fought hard for every possession, patiently worked their way out of La Salle’s traps and never gave up on defense non-stop for 40 minutes.
Mbala still got his usual double-double figures with 17 points and 15 rebounds, 10 of them offensive boards, but expended too much energy powering his way around the dense interior fortified by Ateneo’s big men.
Matt Salem had 20 points and six rebounds as the National University Bulldogs stopped an alarming decline in the other game with a 64-52 win over the UE Warriors, who suffered their 10th defeat in 12 games.
The Bulldogs, who dropped six straight games prior to their UE conquest, should defeat the Adamson Falcons in their last match of the eliminations to keep their hopes alive for a playoff in the Final Four.
NU 64—Salem 20, Aroga 11, Mosqueda 11, Alejandro 10, Morido 6, Rangel 4, Diputado 2, M. Diputado 0, Pate 0, Salim 0, Yu 0.
UE 52—Pasaol 10, Manalang 7, Abanto 6, Bartolome 6, Batiller 5, Varilla 5, Derige 4, Charcos 3, Acuno 2, Gagate 2, Olayon 2, De Leon 0, Palma 0.
Quarters: 9-12, 32-all, 44-45, 64-52.
ATENEO 83—Black 16, Ma. Nieto 15, Wong 11, Go 10, Asistio 9, Verano 6, Mendoza 4, Mi. Nieto 4, Ravena 4, Tolentino 4, Babilonia 0, Ikeh 0.
LA SALLE 71—Teng 18, Mbala 17, Melecio 11, Montalbo 6, Caracut 6, Rivero 4, Tratter 3, Perkins 3, Torres 3, Sargent 0, Rivero 0, Go 0, Baltazar 0.
Quarters: 23-16, 44-36, 61-50, 83-71
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