UAAP: Unbeaten Ateneo repeats over La Salle
MANILA, Philippines— All it took for Ateneo was one big burst in the third to put away arch-rival La Salle and send across a stern message to the rest of the teams in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament: The Eagles got their eye on their fourth title and they have the means to get it.
Displaying the depth and maturity that was unmatched in the first round, Ateneo broke free from an otherwise competitive game in the third quarter to score a convincing 75-68 triumph Tuesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Eagles soared to their eighth victory in as many games while handing the Archers — one of the few teams that could threaten their campaign — their third defeat in eight matches, counting the blowout in the first round.
“We really like the adjustments we made, we kinda go back to the drawing board,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. “They pressed our offence and we struggled for opportunities. But we managed to defend pretty well, you know we went to locker room feeling La Salle had a better first half.”
As expected both teams got off the gates with a sense of urgency usually seen in a finals game. But unlike in their first round meeting, La Salle was more deliberate keeping the game close and even taking the lead in the second quarter, 26-24, on account of Kurt Lojera and Evan Nelle.
And with Ange Kouame saddled by foul trouble early on, the Archers were attacking the lanes as well. But the Eagles were too poised and organised to get thrown off, employing Gian Mamuyac, Dave Ildefonso and Raffy Verano to counter whatever was thrown at them.
“We were not allowed to play our game and I think La Salle played an outstanding job,” added Baldwin. “But our press really helped us out, we got some easy points and got the separation, that changed the complexion of the game.”
From 36 all in the third, Kouame was sent in to spark a frenetic 17-2 run highlighted by two three-pointers each by BJ Andrade and SJ Belangel to suddenly pull away 53-38 four minutes left in the period.
And that’s all it took for the Eagles take control, posting their biggest lead at 57-40 late in the third through Mamuyac and Ildefonso.