(Photo credit: Jamil Buergo/Sports Gateway PH)
The De La Salle Green Archers denied the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles a comeback to prevail in Game One, 67-65, of the Finals of UAAP Season 79, Saturday afternoon at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay city.
League MVP Ben Mbala led La Salle with 20 points and 15 rebounds while Jeron Teng had a foul-riddled game and finished with 10 markers, four boards and three assists. Aljun Melecio was crucial as well by chipping in 12 points on four three-pointers.
Coming off a ten day rest, the Archers started the game strong as they led big early and was on top by as much as 14 points, 16-2.
The Eagles however crawled back and trimmed the deficit bit by bit for the rest of the match. Ateneo managed to tie the game 52-all to end the third quarter.
In the final period where La Salle started with a 7-0 rally led by Melecio, Mbala and Teng, Ateneo came back again and managed to lead with 34 seconds remaining, 65-64, courtesy of a Matt Nieto layup. Teng would answer however with a fastbreak layup over traffic that would prove to be the game’s clincher.
Ateneo had a one final shot to win with 15 seconds left but bobbled an Aaron Black jumper was blocked and it led to a Kib Montalbo split at the freethrow line. Adrian Wong’s heave from halfcourt in the ensuing play only hit the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
The lefty guard Black paced Ateneo with 12 points, eight boards and three assists while Thirdy Ravena finished with eight markers, four rebounds and three dimes.
Game Two of the Finals is on Wednesday, Decmeber 7 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
La Salle: Mbala 20, Melecio 12, Teng 10, Sargent 7, Torres 5, Montalbo 4, P. Rivero 3, Tratter 3, R. Rivero 2, Caracut 1, Perkins 0, Baltazar 0.
Ateneo: Black 12, Wong 9, Ravena 8, Ikeh 8, M. Nieto 8, Go 6, Verano 5, J. Nieto 5, Tolentino 2, Asistio 0, Porter 0, Mendoza 0.