Green Archers prevent Ateneo from a sweep in another nail-biter

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IN A roller coaster of a showdown between two titans, the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers dealt the final blow. La Salle went on a 10-0 run in the final two minutes and 21 seconds to prevail over the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 76-79, in the final game of the Elimination Round of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Men’s Basketball tournament on Sunday, November 12 at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Despite being down by a dozen points early in the fourth quarter, La Salle’s defense and last-minute magic carried them to a victory that stopped Ateneo from nailing a season sweep and guaranteeing a Finals berth. The Ateneo Blue Eagles (13-1) will still finish with the top seed, and will hold a twice-to-beat advantage when they face the fourth-seeded Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws (7-7) on Sunday, November 19, 4:00 PM at the Araneta Coliseum for the first match of the Final Four.

Meanwhile, the Green Archers (12-2) will hold on to the second seed and the other twice-to-beat advantage. They can advance to the Finals with a win on Saturday, November 18 when they face the Adamson University (AdU) Soaring Falcons, 4:00 PM at the Araneta Coliseum.

DLSU’s Ben Mbala showcased one of his best games in the UAAP with an outstanding statline of 28 points, 19 rebounds, six steals, and six blocks on 50% from the field. Ricci Rivero produced another big game against Ateneo, finishing with 21 points and five boards.

Thirdy Ravena led Ateneo with 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Isaac Go provided the spark off the bench with 13 markers, together with six rebounds and five assists. Matt Nieto chipped in with 12 points, but the marksman was held scoreless in the second half.

After some back-and-forth action from both squads to start the match, the Green Archers gained a slight advantage after Jollo Go hit a contested triple (10-14). Abu Tratter made a free throw that gave DLSU a five-point advantage, but the Blue Eagles fought back with a 10-0 run, led by Isaac Go and Matt Nieto, giving Ateneo a five-point lead (22-17) by the first quarter buzzer.

Isaac Go continued to provide Ateneo offense in the second period, scoring four more in the opening minutes to bring his point total to ten. The Green Archers, however, began to trim their deficit as the period progressed. The DLSU's bigs made use of their size advantage and pounded the Blue Eagles on the offensive glass, resulting in free throws and second-chance points. The Green Archers finally captured the lead after Ricci Rivero's corner three, winning a two-point advantage (35-37) at the half.

Ateneo regained control of the match at the beginning of the half. Ravena waxed hot during this stretch, scoring ten of the opening 18 second-half buckets that extended their lead to 10 (55-45). Jolo Mendoza hit a major triple from the top of the key to widen the gap to a nine-point advantage (63-54) heading into the fourth.

Kris Porter hit a triple to open the final period, but DLSU went on an 11-2 run, cutting their deficit to three (68-65). Isaac Go stopped the bleeding a with a triple in the following possession. With a little over two minutes left in the game, Vince Tolentino scored an inside bucket off a scramble that gave Ateneo a four-point lead (73-69). The shot, however, proved to be the last basket of the Blue Eagles.

The Green Archers ramped up their defensive intensity in the remaining minutes. Kib Montalbo hit a go-ahead turnaround jumper with 40 seconds remaining to grant DLSU their first lead since early in the third. With 8.9 seconds left in the game, Isaac Go was found open along the baseline, but Mbala recovered in time to force a fake and contested hook shot from Go, which rimmed out. Ricci Rivero then drained two free throws to seal the win for DLSU.

After the match, Head Coach Tab Baldwin explained that the loss will not deter the team from their title aspirations. "We now just have a different route to do what we want to do," he explained. "Things like sweeps and undefeated seasons—things to dream about—you got to leave it behind pretty quick."

Quarter Scores

Ateneo-DLSU: 22-17, 35-37, 63-54, 79-76

Box Scores

Ateneo (76): Ravena - 15, Go - 13, Ma. Nieto - 12, Verano - 9, Mendoza - 7, Asistio - 6, Tolentino - 6, Ikeh - 4, Porter - 3, Mi. Nieto - 1

DLSU (79): Mbala - 28, Ri. Rivero - 21, Tratter - 8, Santillan - 7, Melecio - 6, Montalbo - 6, Go - 3

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