UAAP: La Salle deals Ateneo its first loss, prevents eliminations sweep, 79-76

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 12) — The La Salle Green Archers blocked the bid of their archrivals, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 79-76, from a sweep of the elimination round of UAAP Season 80 on Sunday.

The result means that there will be Final Four matchups to contest who makes it to the Finals of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

Reigning MVP Ben Mbala posted 28 points, 19 rebounds, six steals, and six blocks, while fellow Archer Ricci Rivero added on 21 points of his own in a neck-and-neck game at the Big Dome.

Jolo Mendoza’s deuce saw Ateneo extend their lead to 24-17 in the opening salvos of the second frame, but it was La Salle who would finish the first half stronger.

After holding Ateneo to just 13 points in the second quarter, the defending champions built a slim 37-35 advantage at the halftime interval.

The break rejuvenated the Blue Eagles, who went on a tear in the third frame and outscored their rivals 28-17 in that quarter alone.

A Mendoza trey at the buzzer gave Ateneo the momentum through a 63-54 advantage going into the payoff period.

An Arvin Tolentino bucket gave Ateneo a 76-69 lead with 2:21 left to play, but then the Green Archers finally clamped down on the defensive end.

For the remainder of the game, the boys from Taft held the Katipunan-based outfit scoreless, while pouring in 10 points of their own to seal the win.

Ateneo did have a chance to steal back the lead with the game poised at 77-76 in favor of the Lasallians, but Isaac Go fluffed a wide open hook shot with 8.5 ticks left before sending Ricci Rivero to the free throw line.

The younger Rivero drained both charities to give La Salle a 79-76 cushion, and got a possible game saving block on the other end to seal the win.

Thirdy Ravena led Ateneo with 15 points in the losing but valiant effort.

La Salle coach Aldin Ayo admitted that there was some bit of fortune involved with his team’s win, especially with the final sequences of the game.

“Big win,” Ayo said. “We got lucky at the end game, especially with Isaac Go’s semi-hook. It was uncontested, luckily it didn’t go in."

“I have to commend the players for their effort, for sticking to the game plan especially during the end game,” Ayo added.

Ayo was also honest, saying that losing would have made the path to the Finals easier. But when La Salle lines up against Ateneo, the game becomes a must-win.

“It will be easy for us if we lost, because there is going to be a step ladder,” Ayo said.

“Since its La Salle and Ateneo, we are not going to back down, we are not going to hold back. We are just going to compete.”

La Salle will battle Adamson on Saturday, while Ateneo will tackle FEU on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

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