The De La Salle University Green Archers rallied back in the fourth period to oust a determined Adamson University squad, 82-75, as the defending champions booked a return trip to the UAAP Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Saturday.
The Green Archers entered the final dance for the second straight year under Head Coach Aldin Ayo.
Both teams traded baskets early in the game. The Soaring Falcons pulled away late in the opening frame, unleashing a 10-3 run starting from the 2:40 mark of the first to build a 21-11 advantage.
La Salle tried to immediately erase the deficit as starters of the Taft-based crew took on much of the load for the Green Archers. Santi Santillan capped off a mini-run with a floater to inch themselves within four, 29-33. Robbie Manalang knocked down back-to-back triples to keep DLSU at bay, 39-33, to end the second quarter.
AdU were always able to find answers whenever the green shirts attempted to turn the table around. Kristian Bernardo cleaned up a miss from Jerrick Ahanmisi to give Adamson its biggest edge at 15 points, 54-39, midway through the third canto. The Green Archers, however, stayed within shouting distance as they trailed by nine, 54-63, at the end of the third.
Finally, for De La Salle, their men’s basketball varsity team woke up in the final quarter. DLSU opened the fourth with a 14-0 blast to change the tides and at long last take on the driver’s seat, 68-63, with 6:00 remaining. From then on, the Soaring Falcons never got to taste the lead anymore as points from the foul line helped the Green Archers put enough breathing room for the win.
UAAP back-to-back Most Valuable Player Mbala paced DLSU with a double-double 27 points and 14 boards against four turnovers. Santi Santillan tallied 16 markers on 60% shooting and eight rebounds, while the younger Rivero scattered 14 points, six boards, and six dimes.
On the other hand, Ahanmisi scored 17. Manalang garnered 16 points and four assists, while Tyrus Hill chipped in 10 markers and nine boards.
The Green Archers took advantage of the huge disparity in fouls and free throws. The reigning champs converted 29 out of 39 trips to the line. On the flip side, the Soaring Falcons only went to the charity stripe five times, making two.
Papi Sarr’s early foul trouble did not help Adamson’s cause as no other Falcons could slow down Mbala inside.
DLSU 82 – Mbala 27, Santillan 15, R. Rivero 14, Melecio 7, Montalbo 5, Caracut 4, Go 3, Tratter 3, Baltazar 2, P. Rivero 2, Paraiso 0.
AdU 75 – Ahanmisi 17, Manalang 16, Hill 10, Lojera 7, Bernardo 6, Sarr 6, Manganti 5, Espeleta 4, Pingoy 2, Zaldivar 2, Ochea 0.
Quarter scores: 11-21, 33-39, 54-63, 82-75.