Blue Eagles end their Season 79 run, bowing to the DLSU Green Archers in Game 2 of the Finals, 72-79

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THE ATENEO Blue Eagles were defeated by the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers in second finals game of the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament, 72-79, on Wednesday, December 7, in the SMART Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City.

With the victory, the DLSU Green Archers were awarded as the champions of the UAAP Season 79 men's basketball tournament, while the Blue Eagles come home as 1st runner-ups.

The Katipunan-based squad were top-scored by Mike Nieto, who scored 18 points on 2/3 shooting from the three-point line and 10/11 from the FT stripe. Meanwhile, Adrian Wong added 10 points. Raffy Verano and Isaac Go each had near double-doubles, with Verano getting 10 points and nine rebounds while Go grabbing nine boards and scoring eight points.

The Season 79 champions were led by graduating King Archer Jeron Teng, who scored a season-high of 28 points on 60% shooting. Ben Mbala had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Kib Montalbo added nine points and Aljun Melecio scored seven.

The game began with some back-and-forth action by the two finalists, with Teng responding twice to shots by Asistio and Wong. Teng then went on to score four unanswered points, but Mike Nieto responded by sinking a wide open triple. Midway through the period, Ikeh attacked Mbala off the dribble, spun, and scored, but Teng answered yet again with a baseline jumper. After some more back-and-forth action by both squads, DLSU ended the period on a 5-0 run through an Mbala inside basket and a Jason Perkins and-1, giving the Green Archers a six-point lead.

The second period began with a Vince Tolentino inside basket off a Go feed, but DLSU answered back with free throws by Tratter and Teng. Ateneo then went on to score four straight points through Matt Nieto and Aaron Black drives, but DLSU responded yet again with four straight of their own by Teng and Melecio that forced Ateneo to call a timeout. The break in action did not deter the Green Archers, as they went on to make a run again through an Mbala putback and a Teng basket that stretched their lead to 11 (22-33). Towards the end of the first half, Asistio sank a triple that brought the deficit to single digits, but more baskets by Teng ended the second quarter with DLSU up 10 (35-45). The red hot DLSU forward had 19 points by halftime.

The third quarter began with centers Mbala and Ikeh trading inside baskets, but Teng then continued from his hot first half with another basket. After a Thirdy Ravena free throw, Kib Montalbo responded with a triple that gave DLSU's biggest lead of the game of 14 (38-52). At the halfway mark of the period, the Blue Eagles went on a 4-0 run through a Mike Nieto fast break and a Verano putback, but Mbala answered back with an inside basket. Ateneo ended the quarter with a 6-3 run that cut La Salle's lead to seven points (52-59).

The Green and White began the final period on fire, going on 6-0 run capped by a Melecio triple. Ateneo did not fall back, however, as they scored seven straight of their own through baskets by Wong and three made free throws by Asistio. After a Melecio basket, Mike Nieto and Go hit free throws that brought Ateneo to within five points (62-67). The Green Archers responded with a huge Mbala putback dunk that ignited the DLSU crowd. Moments after, Mike Nieto sank a quick triple off an inbound that cut DLSU's lead to a mere four points. Teng came in big for La Salle yet again, scoring four straight late in the game that brought the lead to eight points (65-73). Ateneo had a response once more after Matt Nieto spun and scored over Mbala and Go putback a shot that brought it back to a four-point game (69-73). Mbala then went on a 4-0 solo run from a pick-and-roll basket and free throws with 1:13 left in the game, but Verano responded with a corner triple. That shot proved to be too little, too late for Ateneo, as DLSU held on to their lead through free throws en route to their ninth Men's Basketball title in the UAAP.

After the game, Coach Tab Baldwin gave credit to their arch rivals. “[La Salle] was the best team all year long. There is nothing that I can say that is a surprise, really," he said. "They earned this championship.”

Quarter scores: 16-22, 35-45, 52-59, 72-79

Box scores:

Ateneo: Mike Nieto- 18, Verano- 10, Wong- 10, Asistio- 9, Go- 8, Ikeh- 6, Matt Nieto- 4, Ravena- 3, Black- 2, Tolentino- 2

DLSU: Teng- 28, Mbala- 18, Montalbo- 9, Melecio- 7, Caracut- 5, Perkins- 4, Torres- 3, Tratter- 2, Rivero- 2, Sargent- 1

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