De La Salle University erased a 21-point Ateneo margin as the Green Archers pulled off a come-from-behind win against the Blue Eagles, 92-83, in a nerve-wracking collision in Game of the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Wednesday, November 29.
La Salle banked on “Mayhem” to slowly but surely get rid of the deficit with team captain Kib Montalbo and starting point guard leading the charge on the defensive end.
Ateneo raced to a 21-7 lead in the opening quarter behind a barrage of three-pointers from Anton Asistio. The Blue Eagles were in complete control of the game early on. Their defense stifled La Salle and with the second unit of the Blue shirts maintained and helped build a 32-13 advantage after the first.
In the second quarter, things were not getting pretty for the Taft squad as Ricci Rivero was slapped with his fourth foul midway through. On the other hand, the Katipunan crew were connecting from all angles on their way to having a 21-point bubble. The Green Archers got their act together by doing work on defense. Ben Mbala and Aljun Melecio racked up points to cut the deficit to nine, 42-51, at halftime.
With momentum shifting to the green side, all was going well for La Salle. DLSU continued chopping down AdMU’s lead. Sati Santillan hit the game-tying basket, 56-all, with over 5 minutes in the third frame. The white shirts blasted off a 26-8 run to totally turn things around as they took the lead entering the fourth canto, 68-59.
The Blue Eagles were not out just yet as Aaron Black kept the game interesting with a triple to cut La Salle’s lead to four, 70-74. However, the trio of Rivero, Mbala, and Melecio did work for the Green Archers down the stretch to pull away, 88-77, with 2:42 remaining in the game as DLSU eventually claimed the victory.
Ben Mbala bounced back from a lackluster performance in Game 1. The Cameroonian spearheaded the attack for the Green Archers with 20 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks against five turnovers. Ricci, who sat on the bench for the majority of the first half, was still able to chip in 18 points, 12 in the second half, on 8/11 shooting. Andrei Caracut added 13 markers and three rebounds, also getting the job done on defending Matt Nieto.
On the flip side, Thirdy Ravena led Ateneo with 20 points, six rebounds, four assists, but turned the ball over seven times. Aaron Black had 15 points, while Anton Asistio scored 13.
Rubber match Game 3 will be held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, December 3, 4pm.
DLSU 92 – Mbala 20, Ri. Rivero 18, Caracut 13, Melecio 12, Montalbo 9, Santillan 8, Ra. Rivero 8, Tratter 4, Tero 0, Go 0, Baltazar 0
ADMU 83 – Ravena 20, Black 15, Asistio 13, Go 11, Ma. Nieto 10, Ikeh 6, Mendoza 5, Tolentino 2, Tio 1, Verano 0, Mi. Nieto 0, Mamuyac 0, Porter 0
Quarter-scores: 13-32, 42-51, 68-59, 92-83.