Back in the Finals
Down by six at halftime to a hot-shooting Adamson team, La Salle coach Aldin Ayo took his players to task for their sloppy play, sensing a hangover from the big win over rival Ateneo almost a week ago.
“Are you playing like this because its not Ateneo?” the fiery coach asked his team.
“This is the more important game. Some of you are not focused that’s why we can’t execute our plays.”
Ayo finally got his response in the final period, where the Green Archers blitzed the Falcons on their way to an 82-75 victory that booked a return trip to the finals of UAAP Season 80 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ben Mbala scattered 27 points, Leonard Santillan wound up with 15 and Ricci Rivero finished with 14 points as the Archers rolled to their eighth straight victory after rallying from 15 points down.
The Archers now await the winner of Sunday’s clash between top seed Ateneo and Far Eastern U for the best of three Finals that starts next Saturday.
“We don’t have any other motivation except to win the championship,” said Ayo.
“In the first round, there were lots of distractions, simple schemes on defense that sometimes we cannot execute; we tended to gamble a lot. We were very undisciplined in the first round. But they became different come the second round because they just surrendered to the system and overcame the distractions.”
It wasn’t smooth-sailing for the Archers in their Final Four rematch with the Falcons as they came out cold from beyond the arc, missing their first 17 three-point shots.
Jolo Go hit one from the corner with 8:18 remaining that set off the endgame run that took the fight out of the Falcons. More than the shot, Abu Tratter’s pick to free up Go caught Ayo’s attention.
La Salle stifled Adamson in the final period, holding the Falcons to just 12 points.
But the defeat left a bitter taste in Adamson coach Franz Pumaren’s mouth. Pumaren was heard complaining about the officiating as he walked to the dugout after the game.
“This was the worst officiating (I experienced in the UAAP),” Pumaren was seen telling the referees. “You did not give us a chance to play.”
Adamson was called for 33 fouls, 21 more than La Salle, which went 26-of-39 from the free throw line. Adamson, in contrast, made just two of its five foul shots.
“I don’t want to sound sour-graping but I guess everyone saw the game,” said Pumaren.