DEFENDING champion La Salle rallied from 15 points down to eliminate Adamson, 82-75, and make a return trip to the Finals in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Green Archers held the Falcons scoreless in the first 5:16 of the payoff period to conquer their foes for the second straight Final Four.
La Salle mentor Aldin Ayo was satisfied the way his troops regrouped after trailing 37-52 in the third period.
“It’s all about surrendering to the system. There were a lot of distractions. Good thing, lahat naka-focus na. We have only one goal. Lahat nagsa-sakripisyo. Lahat nagwo-working hard. We won’t stop woking hard until we win the championship,” said Ayo.
Reigning MVP Ben Mbala came through with 27 points and 14 rebounds while Santi Santillan added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Archers.
“Walang motivation kundi championship. Yun lang. Wala nang hugot-hugot kung ano pa. Championship lang ang pinag-uusapan,” said Ayo.
Ateneo hopes to arrange a Finals rematch against its fierce rivals, but it must first hurdle Far Eastern University in the other half of the Final Four at 4 p.m. today at the Big Dome to fulfill this.
Ayo has no preference between the Blue Eagles, whom the Archers dealt their first loss after 13 straight wins, or the fourth-ranked Tamaraws.
“Whoever is deserving. Be careful of what we wish for. If you pick sineone, it will add the pressure. Whoever is deserving, we will go to play against with,” said Ayo, who is actually gunning a third consecutive collegiate title since 2015.
“We are looking back to basics,” he added.
La Salle was actually struggling in the three-point area in the first three periods, before finally nailing one courtesy of Jolo Go at the height of its stirring run early in the fourth period.
Jerrick Ahanmisi finished with 17 points while Rob Manalang added 16 points and four assists in his final game for Adamson.
Adamson coach Franz Pumaren was fuming over alleged poor officiating as he was heading to the dugout after the game: “Worst officiating.”
The Falcons were given only five free throws, compared to the Archers’ 39, aside the fact big man Papi Sarr and guard Jerie Pingoy were hounded in foul trouble.
“We worked so hard for this. We prepared for it. I don’t think I was outcoached,” said Pumaren later, still ruing about the way the game was officiated. “Everybody knows what happened.”
In juniors action at the Filoil Flying V Centre, four teams improved to 2-0 after beating their respective foes.
Xyrus Torres had 15 points to power defending champion FEU-Diliman to a 86-68 romp of University of the East.
Michael Malonzo and Rhayyan Amsali finished in double figures with 14 points apiece.
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.
AdU (75) -- Ahanmisi 17, Manalang 16, Hill 10, Lojera 7, Sarr 6, Bernardo 6, Manganti 5, Espeleta 4, Pingoy 2, Zaldivar 2, Ochea 0.
Quarterscores: 11-21, 33-39, 54-63, 82-75.