It was the game fans had been waiting for, an epic match up of mythic proportions: Blue versus Green, Ateneo and La Salle, the legendary rivalry facing off for the first time this UAAP 79, towards the first round of competition.
No matter what color their shirts were, UAAP fans witnessed an impressive round of basketball as the Archers trounced the Blue Eagles 97-81 at the Mall of Asia Arena yesterday. The victory came in the face of the Archers playing without the services of Jerold Teng, who is recovering from an ankle injury, and suspended Head Coach Aldin Ayo. The Archers now lead the UAAP tournament, having won all seven of their games of the first round.
“The sweep didn’t cross our minds at all,” said interim coach Louie Gonzales. “As Coach Aldin said, we’re not yet complete. Every game, we know that there will be a new challenge for the team. The good thing is that with every challenge and every game, the team responds and the team improves.”
Gonzales’ modesty notwithstanding, the Archers performed admirably; following a first quarter that ended on a 20-20 tie following back and forth scoring from both teams, Ateneo was able to gain a six-point lead in the second quarter that proved short-lived as DLSU struck back with a 21-3 run across four minutes that took the score to 41-29 – the Blue Eagles would never retake the advantage.
While nearly Archer was able to score at least once (leading by 27 points at one point), it was Ben Mbala that stood out, powering his squad forward with 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 steals. Among Mbala’s highlight reel worthy moments were three powerhouse dunks that rocked the packed stadium as the DLSU crowd showed their uproarious approval.
For the Ateneo side, Adrian Wong led his team with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
After the game, Gonzales told media that the Archers’ performance was keeping well in line with how they had been trained: “This game is a testimony of what Coach Aldin teaches the players, which is just being responsible.”
As fans eagerly anticipate the next round of the UAAP tournament and the imminent returns of both Teng and Ayo, we can’t wait to see how the Blue Eagles will bounce back from their current 4-3 status, and deliver the next exciting chapter in Philippine collegiate basketball’s most famed rivalry.
The La Sallian