Archers gain finals
Coach Aldin Ayo couldn’t believe La Salle’s worst game would come at the most crucial stretch of the season.
And he’s praying that the long break of the Green Archers will be enough to rectify all mistakes in time for the Finals of the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament.
“We’re now in the Finals but we cannot play like this,” said Ayo, visibly dismayed despite shooting down the Adamson Falcons with a 69-64 win in the Final Four at Mall of Asia Arena last night.
Jeron Teng, who caused some of the frustration after committing seven of La Salle’s 26 turnovers, bailed them out in the closing minutes by scoring 11 of his game-high 25 points in that span.
“We just really wanted this game badly and we don’t want to prolong it anymore,” said Teng on his final year with the Archers.
Ben Mbala, the projected season MVP, continued to churn out double-double figures of 21 points and 16 rebounds in hurdling the challenge of fellow Cameroonian Papi Sarr.
“We didn’t execute our game plan that’s why I’m hesitant to congratulate my players. It’s very odd that we performed badly at a time like this,” said Ayo.
If there’s any consolation aside from advancing to the best-of-three championship, the Archers are in for a 10-day rest that Ayo thinks could help their cause.
“We have to correct those lapses and resolve this come Dec. 3,” said Ayo.
La Salle’s championship rival will be known after the other Final Four pairing between No. 2 Ateneo and defending champion Far Eastern University. The Blue Eagles have a twice-to-beat edge in the playoffs scheduled Saturday.
“Whether it’s Ateneo or FEU, I don’t really care. All I know is that we have to be ready in the Finals,” said Ayo.
The Falcons, with Sean Manganti and Robbie Manalang delivering a couple of important baskets, were so close to pulling off an upset and extending it to a make-or-break affair but had trouble generating offense in the clutch.
“It was a great run for us. Even if we didn’t make it all the way, I can say it’s a magical run for us,” said Adamson coach Franz Pumaren.
“For a young team, who would ever imagine or expect us to be in this situation?”
Ayo could only agree with Pumaren’s observation. “They have the materials. Those players are off the radar but they have a good system.”
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