The reigning UAAP champions are back in the Finals to defend their crown.
The De La Salle Green Archers made a strong push in the fourth quarter as they came away with an 82-75 victory over the Adamson Falcons on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Down by as much as 15 points, the Green Archers showed poise and maturity to climb out of their deficit. The Falcons were up 63-54 to start the final frame but that didn’t stop the defending champs from fighting back.
La Salle unleashed a brutal 14-0 run to open the fourth period, holding their opponent scorless for more than five minutes. It was already 68-53 until Kristian Bernardo stopped the bleeding for Adamson. By then, the momentum already shifted towards the Archers’ side.
“All game long, we found it very hard to break their camouflage. They’re denying the paint, they’re doubling Ben (Mbala), they’re allowing us to take the three-point shot,” pointed out La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo. “During the second quarter, some of our small men were hesitant to take the three’s. I told them at halftime that they have to be confident in taking those shots.”
Ben Mbala led his team with 27 points while also pulling down 14 rebounds. Santi Santillan chipped in with 15 points and eight boards.
A contested three-pointer by Robbi Manalang made it 71-70 but that turned out to be the last stand for the Falcons. Santillan countered with his own triple, and then Ricci Rivero put the exclamation point of the game with a breakaway dunk.
Jerrick Ahanmisi had 17 points, including five three-pointers in the losing effort. Manalang ended up with 16 points and Tyrus Hill contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Archers were atrocious from the three-point line, going 2-for-21. With their perimeter shots not falling, Mbala and the rest of the Archers attacked the paint relentlessly as they went 26-for-39 from the foul line. The Falcons committed 33 fouls trying to contain the La Salle big men.
The win by the Archers booked them their second straight Finals appearance. They now wait for the winner between the semifinals bout between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and FEU Tamaraws.
“Hindi pa namin alam kung sino ang kalaban, so kung wala pang kalaban, practice muna namin, kung ano ang usual naming ginagawa,” Ayo shared. “Pero kung meron nang kalaban on Monday we start preparing for kung sino man.”
DLSU 82 – Mbala 27, Santillan 15, Rivero R 14, Melecio 7, Montalbo 5, Caracut 4, Tratter 3, Go 3, Rivero P 2, Baltazar 2, Paraiso 0
ADAMSON 75 – Ahanmisi 17, Manalang 16, Hill 10, Lojera 7, Sarr 6, Bernardo 6, Manganti 5, Espeleta 4, Pingoy 2, Zaldivar 2, Ochea 0
QUARTER SCORES: 11-21, 33-39, 54-63, 82-75