DE LA SALLE remained unbeaten after five starts, easily disposing the challenge of Adamson University, 91-75, on Saturday in Season 79 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In a highly anticipated match of the top 2 teams, the Green Archers were simply too much against the Soaring Falcons, who, except for sporadic rallies, hardly gave La Salle a fight and saw their two-game winning snapped to go slide to 3-2. Ben Mbala recorded his fifth straight double-double game for the Green Archers with 21 points and 16 rebounds, but the bench support was also key for the Taft-based team in nailing the victory.
“We were able to execute our game plan on both ends of the floor,” said La Salle Head Coach Aldin Ayo, who had five players in double figures in scoring, their most this season.
“Gusto ko ang ganoong sistema na kalaban, disciplined, structured. Pasok sa sistema ko na panggulo,” Ayo added.
Jeron Teng contributed 15 points, while Aljun Melecio and Kib Montalba came off the bench and netted 13 and 12 markers, respectively. Thomas Torred hit 11 points for the Green Archers.
Jerrick Ahanmisi led all scorers with 22 points to lead Adamson, while Robbie Manalang added 15, all from the three-point area. Papi Sarr had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Soaring Falcons.
But Head Coach Franz Pumaren failed to draw support from his second unit, unlike in their huge wins against Ateneo de Manila (62-61) and National University (64-51).
Mbala already had a double-double game after the first half, leading La Salle to a 49-34 cushion, although the Soaring Falcons managed to trim the lead to 11, 50-61, on Ahanmisi’s triple, 1:13 left in the third canto.
But Melecio anchored the Green Archers’ last push in the period with a three-pointer and a drive to put their lead back to 66-52.
Mbala hardly played in the fourth period due to foul trouble, but Teng, Montalbo and Torres carried the load to pull away, 83-66, over three minutes remaining.
“Hinigpitan namin ang depensa, especially in the backcourt, and we were able to execute our offense,” Ayo said.
“In our previous four games, our offense has always been absent, this game we were able to execute our offense. Pero nasa 75 percent pa lang kami ngayon. We started slow. Against FEU [Far Eastern University], nasa 15 percent lang kami,” he added.
Ayo also commended the game of Montalbo, who missed last season due to an ACL injury.
“He’s [Montalbo] a steady player. He prioritizes defense, gives us the intangibles and he goes with the flow with our offense,” Ayo said of his veteran guard. In the second game, Ateneo de Manila joined Adamson at second spot after beating University of the East, 84-69.
The Blue Eagles needed a strong second half to pull away from the pesky Red Warriors, who dropped their fifth straight game and remained winless in the tournament.
Anton Asistio led Ateneo with 21 points, while John Wong added 17 markers for the Blue Eagles, who improved to 3-2.
“We knew UE is going to go all out. The score does not tell the whole story how hard this game was,” said Ateneo Head Coach Sandy Arespacochaga, who drew 11 points each from Michael Nieto and Chibueze Ikeh.
Alvin Pasaol paced the Red Warriors with 22 points while Bonbon Batiller added 11. UE remained at the bottom with 0-5 mark.
Image credits: Alysa Salen