Fierce rivals take the court as Eagles battle Archers
Two teams that have not only split the UAAP basketball titles the past two seasons, but also form the fiercest rivalry in varsity sports in the country duke it out for the first time in Season 81 on Saturday.
And while the odds have favored defending champion Ateneo after its impressive run to the crown last year, La Salle remains as dangerous as ever in the post Ben Mbala era.
Game time is at 4 p.m. at Mall of Asia Arena with the Eagles looking for their fifth win in six games, while the Green Archers aim to continue their rise after a roller coaster start to the season.
“There’s no need to motivate the players if it’s an Ateneo-La Salle game,” said La Salle coach Louie Gonzales, who will be figuring in his first rivalry game after serving as deputy to Aldin Ayo the past two seasons on the Archers bench.
“It’s a responsibility for us to come out and give everything. We know it’s going to be tough because since the start, Ateneo is the team to beat.
With Mbala no longer around, Justin Baltazar and Santi Santillan have been trying to fill the hole in the middle this season. Returning guards Aljun Melecio and Kib Montalbo will also provide scoring spark.
The Eagles have remained almost intact with stars Thirdy Ravena, Matt Nieto and Isaac Go also flashing more polished games under Tab Baldwin. Angelo Kouame has also turned out to be an upgrade from graduated foreign player Chibueze Ikeh, after dishing out a 20-point, 14-rebound performance in a win against University of Santo Tomas last week.
Save for a stunning upset to the Adamson Falcons at the start of the season, the Eagles have been in superb form with back-to-back blow-out wins over National U and UST.
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