DLSU Green Archers drop Finals opener to Ateneo Blue Eagles
Published on November 25th, 2017 | by Genrev Josiah Villamin
(Photo by Jason Andico)
In a highly emotional and heated Season 80 Finals opener of this classic UAAP rivalry, the De La Salle Green Archers bowed to the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 70-76, on Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Despite trailing the runners-up by 13 in the first half, the Green Archers, Season 79 champions, managed to cut it to only two heading into the payoff period–only to run out of gas in the end game.
The protagonists exchanged buckets in the first two minutes of the match. Santi Santillan found an open lane and slammed the ball for the third deadlock at 6-all. Then, Aljun Melecio’s spin move and layup gave La Salle the lead, 8-6, at the 7:44 of the first quarter. But, Ateneo answered with a 10-0 burst that saw them pull away early, 16-8, still with 4:31 remaining. An outside shot by Melecio and a perimeter stab by Ben Mbala cut it to three, 13-16. However, the Blue Eagles once again pulled a 10-1 run to end the first quarter, 26-14.
The second quarter started to become chippy as the two teams heated up. Midway through the period, emotions were high as taunting Abu Tratter, Prince Rivero, and Ateneo’s Chibueze Ikeh needed to be separated by cooler heads. Mbala pulled La Salle back to within eight, 20-28, with 7:49 remaining. Consequently, Tratter hit back-to-back jumpers as the Green Archers trail by only four, 27-31. At the 4:17 mark, Ikeh tried to grab the ball from Mbala after the latter committed a foul. The two, who both continued taunting, were eventually slapped with technical fouls.
Moving on, Melecio fired his second and third long bombs as they continued trimming the Blue Eagles’ lead, 34-36. Ateneo, however, scored seven consecutive points to widen the gap again, 43-34. And just before the first half ended, Matt Nieto suffered a tough cut above his left eye, leaving him bloodied on the floor, after he was inadvertently hit by Mbala’s elbow. Justine Baltazar ended the first two quarters with a short one-hander. Ateneo was still ahead of La Salle but only by four, 43-39.
Ateneo started the third canto with a 5-0 run for a 48-39 lead. But, La Salle countered it with their own five straight points. At the 8:04 mark, An unsportsmanlike foul was slapped on Anton Asistio, but Melecio split his charities. Ricci Rivero hammered the ball to cap the run. Owing to his previous miss from the line, Melecio connected five straight points to bring La Salle back to within one possession, 51-54, with 4:54 in the third.
After a mandatory timeout, Santillan buried a wide-open triple for only the fourth deadlock of the game, 54-all. In the next Green Archer possession, Kib Montalbo eluded Raffy Verano’s defense with a cringeworthy behind-the-back dribble that drove the entire crowd crazy. At the 1:38 mark of the third period, the game remained tied at 58-all after Tratter’s trip to the line. Ateneo made the final basket, but La Salle’s swarming third quarter defense has cut their 13-point lead to only two points, 58-60, heading into the final period.
The Blue Eagles, who were leading only by two points after three quarters, were once again up by double figures, 69-59, after a 13-3 run. But the Green Archers connected seven unanswered points including a deep trey from Melecio and a shot clock-beating bucket from Mbala. In the next sequence, Melecio picked Verano’s pocket and completed the wide-open fast break. Then, he hit a tough jumper to pull them to within one, 70-71. But with 2:32 remaining, the Katipunan-based squad held the Taft-based squad scoreless to end the game. After their own timeout, the Green Archers were trailing, 70-73. Melecio could have tied the game with his three-point attempt, but he missed it. With under 20 seconds remaining, Montalbo fouled Isaac Go, whose three-point play proved to be the nail in the coffin for La Salle.
Melecio, Season 79 Rookie of the Year who has been quiet since his dengue fever, finally erupted for 24 points on five triples. He also logged three assists and three steals that went for naught. Ricci Rivero was the only other Green Archer to finish in double figures with 10. Two-time UAAP MVP Ben Mbala was held to only eight markers, his lowest and lone single-digit finish in points in his UAAP career.
On the other hand, Ateneo had four players in double figures. Ravena scored 12 points. The Nieto brothers each logged 11 points, while Asistio added 10 points.
The Blue Eagles were undefeated at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Season 80. Meanwhile, the Green Archers are the only unbeaten team at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. They will try to keep their clean slate at the Big Dome and force a rubber match on Wednesday, 4PM.
DLSU 70 – Melecio 24, Ri. Rivero 10, Mbala 8, Tratter 7, Santillan 7, Ra. Rivero 7, Baltazar 4, Montalbo 3, Caracut 0, Go 0, Tero 0, Paraiso 0.
ADMU 76 – Ravena 12, Mi. Nieto 11, Ma. Nieto 11, Asistio 10, Tolentino 9, Black 7, Verano 5, Go 5, Ikeh 4, Tio 2, Mamuyac 0, Mendoza 0, Porter 0.
14-26, 39-43, 58-60, 70-76