What’s the Real Reason Why Aldin Ayo Left La Salle?

Just when La Salle was still dealing with losing Ben Mbala, they will also need to deal with losing their champion coach. 

Ayo finally breaks his silence as he prepares for a potential move to UST

During the course of the last two seasons of the UAAP, the De La Salle Green Archers have become an almost unstoppable team- only losing a grand total of 5 games during that span of time. 
They won the first 13 games of Season 79 before winning the championship with Jeron Teng hailed as the Finals MVP in his final UAAP game. In Season 80, they finished the 2-round elimination in second place after snapping the 13-game winning streak of the eventual champions, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. 
La Salle’s MVP, Ben Mbala was an unstoppable force during his two seasons with the Green and White before calling it quits due to the nagging questions surrounding his eligibility for Season 81.  And just when La Salle fans were still recovering from the news of Mbala’s departure, the man behind the Mayhem system that La Salle has been playing, champion coach, Aldin Ayo, has parted ways with the Taft-based squad. While his name has been connected with the coaching job at the helm of the UST Growling Tigers, Ayo has been quiet with regards to his decision to leave La Salle. Until now.
In a Twitter post, Aldin Ayo finally broke his deafening silence and finally explained that differences in how the Green Archers should be handled are the reasons behind his decision to formally leave Taft. He also stated in the same post that he has always done what he thinks was necessary for the team. 
As to why he waited this long before explaining his side of things, Ayo said that he’s trying to keep his word with the La Salle officials to wait until the 1st week of January before disclosing any information. He said that he decided to come out of the dark because the news about his departure has already broken out earlier than expected. He had to get permission from La Salle before saying anything- a thing that La Salle granted. 

Conclusion

La Salle has already appointed their new coach in Luis Gonzalez, Ayo’s longtime deputy. While UST has yet to release any official statement regarding the impending arrival of Aldin Ayo, sources are saying that UST is set to make an announcement within the first two weeks of the new year. We’ll just have to play the wait-and-see-game. Again. 

The UAAP Season 80 Review: A Year Filled with Surprises and Drama

Nevertheless, it has been a season for the books

La Salle vs Ateneo
This season’s Men’s Basketball Tournament is more than just about the Ateneo-La Salle Rivalry.
Over the past seasons, the Men’s Basketball tournament of the UAAP has been one of the country’s most exciting basketball leagues and mind you, folks. The UAAP is more than just about the fierce rivalry between the Ateneo de Manila Bule Eagles and the De La Salle Green Archers. And Season 80 is no different at all.

For those who were probably stuck in their studies all while the basketball wars were happening, below are just some of the stories which this pundit on wheels thinks has made 2017 memorable for the UAAP fans:

Surprise!

One of the teams that made the most impact this year was the UP Fighting Maroons. And nobody expected them to win. Especially not against a powerhouse team like the Green Archers whom they beat surprisingly by a big margin. They did by shutting down the rest of the Archers as Ben Mbala was almost impossible to stop. And it worked. Throughout the entire season, Paul Desiderio hit numerous game-winning treys. Unfortunately, UP came short of making it to the Final 4 but given the fact they were able to beat La Salle, it’s only a matter of time until UP becomes a Final 4-bound team.

Ateneo’s Redemption Season

After losing in the Finals last season against Jeron Teng and company, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles wasted no time as they began the season by winning the first 13 games only to lose on the 14th against their archrivals. Then, their backs were forced onto the wall as the Far Eastern University Tamaraws forced a sudden-death match against the number one team. Fortunately, Isaac Go redeemed himself as he nailed two clutch baskets- one that forced overtime and the other one that sealed the win for the Eagles.
In the Finals against La Salle, Isaac Go was the hero of the series as he completed a 3-point play during the dying seconds of Game 1, allowing Ateneo to take Game 1. And when La Salle was threatening for the last time in a classic Game 3, Isaac Go received a pass from Thirdy Ravena and calmly drained a three-pointer to ice things up. Victory. Redemption. George Isaac Go.

La Salle’s Drama

Losing in the Finals against the Blue Eagles was definitely a bitter pill to swallow for the Archers. After all, they were the only ones who beat the Eagles during the elimination rounds.  And they came a defensive stop away from winning a second consecutive championship. They fell short. Tears were shred. Congratulatory and consoling hugs were exchanged. In the end, La Salle lost it all. And the drama was just getting started back then.
Coach Aldin Ayo said after the Finals series that 2-time MVP Ben Mbala still has one season of eligibility with the Green Archers. Then, Mbala said he has enough of the issues surrounding his eligibility owing to the reinstatement of the “seven years out of high school” rule by the UAAP. Mbala has taken his talents to Mexico after saying that he won’t waste a year doing nothing. In a snap, things went gloomier for La Salle.
Throughout the latter part of the season, Aldin Ayo’s name has been connected to the UST coaching job. Many speculated that Ayo’s former connections from the Letran Knights were pushing for him to transfer from Taft to Espana. At first, Ayo denied the rumors, saying that his commitment was with La Salle. WAS. After a few weeks, Aldin Ayo parted ways with the Green Archers- taking with him his coaching staff. Is Aldin Ayo really headed to Espana? We’ll all have to wait. 

Conclusion

Now that the season is over in the Men’s division, there are a few questions that need answers come Season 81. Will Ateneo repeat? Possibly. Who will take over from Ayo in La Salle? Nobody knows. For now. Will the Fighting Maroons ever make it back to the Final 4? That’s up for a debate. Nevertheless, it has been a pleasant season in general- except if you’re a fan of the UST Growling Tigers. 

Pido Jarencio Not Closing Door on Return to UST

Pido Jarencio says he’s still waiting for UST to ask him to return.

The UST Growling Tigers have been losing their claws in the men’s division of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament and who would have thought things would have gone to something as worse as finishing the UAAP Season 80 with only one win in 14 games- a win against their fellow bottom-dweller, UE Red Warriors on their last game?
Right after another disappointing season, Boy Sablan and his entire coaching staff made their exit, paving way for a search of a new coach who can help the UST Growling Tigers regain heir long-lost glory in basketball. There were many names that have been included in the rumors.
For starters, the name of Aldin Ayo, currently serving as the head coach of the De La Salle Green Archers who recently lost in the Finals against the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.has been one of the names that have been making the loudest noise. That was until Ayo himself shot down the rumors, stating that he is committed to La Salle. For now. 
Other names that have been heard are former UST player Bal David and even Alfrancis Chua, governor of the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in the PBA who insisted that he only wanted to help UST in other ways. UST only needs to do one thing: tell Chua what the school’s plans for their basketball team.
However, there’s one specific name which has been in the hearts and minds of the UST faithfuls. That name belongs to Pido Jarencio, the coach who last led the Growling to a championship and a pair of Finals appearances.
While Pido Jarencio is back as the head coach of the GlobalPort Batang Pier who dropped their opening game against the NLEX Road Warriors, the former PBA player has already indicated in his Twitter account that he hasn’t shot down the possibility of him returning at the helm of UST- even saying that he’s courting UST to allow him to coach again.

Will Pido Jarencio be able to turn things around for UST?

The answer to that question is simple: YES!
Despite his tendency to drive his players nuts especially when his temper gets in the way, having Pido Jarencio as their coach will help UST regain their confidence and hopefully re-establish a winning attitude. Pido Jarencio has been known as a tough coach to play under but that toughness is due to his undying desire to make his team better. After all, Jarencio has transformed UST from becoming the first 4th seeded team to beat the top-seeded team in the Final 4, to a champion team during his stint.

Conclusion  

Now that Pido Jarencio has openly indicated that he is more than willing to make a return to Espana, the ball is now in the hands of the UST Growling Tigers themselves. If they want to become competitive again come Season 81 and beyond, they should start by hiring a coach who has a winning record and a winning attitude. Fortunately, Pido Jarencio has both.

What Mbala’s departure means for La Salle and for the UAAP in general?

Mbala’s decision is final and is taking his talents to Mexico

Ever since coming into the UAAP last season, Ben Mbala has become a force to be reckoned with. Literally and figuratively, he’s a beast on the court and has become the main defensive anchor of the De La Salle Green Archers for the last two seasons. He won the MVP twice and is a member of the Mythical Team for two seasons. He helped La Salle win the first 13 games of the UAAP back in Season 79 before winning the championship against the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.
Heading into Season 80, La Salle was tagged as favorites to repeat as champions despite losing Jeron Teng to graduation. And despite missing Ben Mbala for the first two games of the season due to Mbala’s commitment to his country’s national team, the Green Archers went on to return the favor to the Blue Eagles by ending the latter’s 13-game winning streak. Both teams went to the Finals again where Ateneo finally won the championship after winning the series, 2-1.
Coach Aldin Ayo has indicated right after the Finals that Ben Mbala will return for Season 81.
That was a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately for Aldin Ayo and company, they will have to figure things out on their own come next season because Ben Mbala has made the hardest and most heart-breaking decision not to return to the Green Archers. According to the reigning two-time MVP, his decision to leave La Salle was motivated by the questions surrounding his eligibility to play next season. This was due to the reports that the “Seven Year out of High School” rule has already lapsed. This rule was imposed by the UAAP to ease the lack of recruitment that was brought about by the implementation of the K-12 curriculum. Additionally, Ben Mbala has said that he felt it was already high time for him take his talents elsewhere instead of staying in Manila, doing nothing. He is now set to play in Mexico.

What Mbala’s departure means for La Salle and for the UAAP in general?

There’s no denying the fact that Ben Mbala is one of the best foreign players to play in the UAAP and La Salle will sorely miss him due to his competitiveness and the fact that he is almost impossible to guard. Replacing Mbala’s numbers would be a big headache for La Salle because it’s not every day that you see a kind of player who can score as if he’s LeBron James.
While La Salle will have headaches due to Mbala’s decision not to return, this could also mean less headache for the rest of the league. They won’t have to defend someone who is virtually unguardable. Also, Mbala’s decision has already made Ateneo’s road to repeating as champions, less complicated. 

Conclusion

Who will lead La Salle come next season and beyond? Like it or not, La Salle still has many players who can take over the leadership role and one of those guys is Ricci Rivero who played tremendously great this season. While losing Ben Mbala will be a big blow for La Salle, this will also allow other players to blossom. 

Title Defense Looks Promising for the Ateneo Blue Eagles

Coach Tab Baldwin says the Blue Eagles will have lots of talent next season

The dagger shot was nailed. The final buzzer has made its final sound and was followed by a rain of confetti, flooding the court. These were the scenarios as the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles began to celebrate their championship victory against the De La Salle Green Archers after a classic Game 3 win which was not sealed until the final minute of the game. A classic indeed.
It has been a week already since that exciting Sunday night and to celebrate that championship along with other achievements that are made by the other Ateneo teams in other UAAP sports, the entire Ateneo community joined together and held a bonfire at their Quezon City campus. Present there were members of the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball champions headed by Coach Tab Baldwin and Team Captain Vince Tolentino who played his final year for the Blue and White alongside Chubueze Ikeh.
Now that the celebration was done, let’s go straight to the next thing the Blue Eagles will need to focus on after winning their first championship since Norman Black led the team to 5 straight championships: defend the title. Despite the fact that the Blue Eagles will no longer have Tolentino and Ikeh around come Season 81, the core of the championship-winning team will remain intact. In fact, they will even get more powerful- at least on paper when Season 81 opens next year.
That if you will believe Coach Tab Baldwin.
Ateneo has tons of possible players who can suit up for next season. 
Aside from former Blue Eagle, Adrian Wong who is set to hopefully return after missing a season due to injury, the Eagles will have a new foreign student-player in Angelo Kouame. 
Isaac Go, the hero of Season 80, will be expected to play a bigger role next year and so will Raffy Verano. 
Also, former San Beda Red Lion, William Navarro and Fil-Kiwi player, Patrick Maadenberg are included in the choices. 
And lastly, three Blue Eaglets are set to graduate next year namely, Dave Ildefonso, SJ Belangel and Jason Credo. So, this is a headache Tab Baldwin will want to have: choosing among the players whom he believes will lead the Eagles to another championship.

Conclusion

Season 81 will not start until September of next year. Until then, Isaac Go and the rest of the Blue Eagles can have the luxury of enjoying this championship. After all, it has been five years since the last time they’ve won one, right? But at the same time, Tab Badlwin will be working behind the limelight as he prepares the Eagles for its title because of the fact that La Salle will still have 2-time MVP, Ben Mbala next season- for one final season. 

Champion Ateneo will Receive Expensive Gifts from MVP

Ateneo Blue Eagles is special to me – Manny V. Pangilinan 

The Ateneo Blue Eagles is once again the UAAP Champion but the Lasalle Green Archers put up a great fight and the proof is in the final score. 88-86 Ateneo is the Season 80 champion.
The hard-earned championship did not come unnoticed as one of the biggest supporters and patron of the school, Manny Pangilinan, is giving these young kids an I phone X and a trip to Hong Kong.
“This is a team that’s quite special to me. I’ve been exposed to a lot of basketball in my life, and this team has been special to me since my first game,” said Pangilinan, according to a tweet by The Guidon.

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Manny Pangilinan is also the main sponsor of the national team and the owner of  Talk n Text, Meralco and NLEX basketball teams in the PBA has been an avid supporter of sports specifically basketball.


Check out the photos of the game here.

Championship shifts to Katipunan Anew as Ateneo outlasted La Salle in Game 3 of UAAP Finals

After missing a hook shot in the eliminations that may have given an outright finals berth, Isaac Go may have drained the biggest 3-point shot of his young collegiate career.
With 2 seconds remaining in their shot clock, Go received a pass from Thirdy Ravena and with no choice but to put up a shot, Go put up a looper and swishes the net as the buzzer sounds.
It was a grit and grind game as usual as La Salle managed to take the lead midway the 3rd quarter but Ateneo made a huge run in the 4th quarter to give them an 8 point lead. But again, La Salle fought back and cut the lead into 2 with Andrei Caracut 3-pointer. Then the Isaac Go Title-Clinching shot happened.

The supporter of both teams made the game more exciting as 22,012 fans made it to the venue to watch their favorite teams.
Thirdy Ravena was crowned Finals MVP as he finished the game with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists while Matt Nieto. Chiz Ikeh and Antos Asistio combined for 37 points to help Ravena.
Meanwhile, Season MVP Ben Mbala managed to collect 19 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks while Aljun Melecio, Ricci Rivero, Andre Caracut and Leonard Santillan managed to contribute, 16, 14, 13 and 11 points respectively.
With this championship, Ateneo Blue Eagles will get an iPhone X and Trip to Hongkong bonus from “MVP” Manny V. Pangilinan.

UAAP Season 80 Championship: A Big Redemption for the Blue Eagles

Big Finals victory against La Salle completes a turnaround season for Ateneo

After winning last year’s UAAP championship, the De La Salle Green Archers came into the UAAP Season 80 as the favorites to repeat as champions as they had Ben Mbala, the now two-time MVP, on board. 
Although they were defeated by the UP Fighting Maroons and the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles back in the first round, they literally and figuratively stormed into the Final 4 by ending Ateneo’s 13-game winning streak. Then, the defending champions disposed the Adamson Falcons in their lone Final 4 game to enter the Finals for the second straight season.
On the other hand, aside from seeing their 13-game winning streak snapped by the Archers, the Ateneo Blue Eagles had to sweat it out against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws who forced a do-or-die game that even went into an extra period. If not to Isaac Go’s heroics, that 13-1 record that Ateneo established would have been for naught. 
Coming into the best-of-3 championship series, everyone was expecting it to be a bloody affair owing to the fact that it was between Ateneo and La Salle. And it turned out to be a bloody war indeed as blood from both sides was spilled onto the court, numerous times. 
Game 1 went to the guys in blue after a heroic outing from none other than Isaac Go. Game 2, on the other hand, went to the men in green as La Salle erased a 21-point deficit that forced a Game 3. 

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The third game of the series was a beauty to behold as it was filled with non-stop, amazing basketball action from start to finish. In the end,  the Blue Eagles successfully avoided another late-game meltdown after beating the Archers, 88-86- to bring back the crown to Katipunan. 

Redemption

If anything, this championship that Ateneo won showed their determination to redeem their themselves all season long after losing last year’s championship series due to the inexperience of the team, most especially Thirdy Ravena who made costly mistakes in that series. 
Ravena, the Finals MVP this season, has improved tremendously as he contributed to the success of the team not just by scoring on monstrous dunks but, by being a facilitator, a great rebounder and, a defender as well. 
Isaac Go also redeemed himself after missing the potential game-winner against La Salle back in the second round. He rescued the Eagles thrice this season, once against FEU and twice in the Finals- the last one being the booming trey that statistically iced up the Eagles’ victory in Game 3. And, Isaac Go’s “clutchness” even made Norman Black- the man behind Ateneo’s 5-peat run, dance. 
Chibueze Ikeh failed to defend Ben Mbala down low in Game 3 but that didn’t stop him playing his best game of the season after scoring 12 points- including that big dunk late in the 4th quarter, while also grabbing 13 rebounds- 8 from the offensive end. He ended his UAAP career with a championship to savor. What a way to redeem from the previous two seasons that were filled with turmoil, right?

Conclusion

Ateneo will lose three players to graduation next season. However, this would mean that Isaac Go will play a bigger role in the Eagles’ title defense. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves folks. Let Ateneo savor this victory for a little while. After all, it has been 5 years since that last title, right?

RECAP: Ateneo Blue Eagles Get Their Revenge Against DLSU, Capture Their 9th Championship Title.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The greatest sports rivalry in Philippine history squared off Sunday afternoon at the Araneta Coliseum in the two best words any UAAP fan can hear: Game. 3.


Ateneo celebrated their 9th championship Thursday night (Photo Courtesy of LJ Mendoza)



The day before, tickets sold out before any announcement could be made, as fans already started camping outside Araneta coliseum as early as 1 am, leaving only General Admission tickets and tickets from resellers/scalpers the only ones available to purchase. The rivalry between DLSU and ADMU could be well seen through social media and fans. 

Like the first two games of the finals, the game had lots of physicality and spirit, as 22,012 were in attendance. ADMU quickly jumped to a 4-0 lead off buckets from C Chibueze Ikeh and F Thirdy Ravena. Threes were going in everywhere from both sides. At the end of the first, the Eagles led DLSU by double digits at 24-14. La Salle turned the ball over 10 times, mostly off deflections and fouls, in just the first quarter. 

In the second quarter, the Green Archers came back charging as their excellent defense led to a 10-1 run. Ateneo didn’t get their first field goal of the quarter until the 5:34 mark. ADMU was able to maintain their 2-4 point lead during the last 5 minutes of the quarter until DLSU Guard Ricci Rivero grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on the post for a second chance opportunity, handing them a 38-37 lead, their first of the game. The Blue Eagles closed the first half on an 8-0 run including a heavily contested bank shot from three made by G Anton Asistio at the buzzer. DLSU outscored ADMU 24-21 in this quarter.

At the end of the first half, the score was 45-38 in Ateneo’s favor. Thirdy Ravena led all scorers with 11 points while the reigning back-to-back MVP Center Ben Mbala and G Andrei Caracut led the Green Archers with 7 points apart. the Green Archers had 14 turnovers with 3 steals compared to Ateneo’s 8 turnovers with 6 steals, but DLSU was able to outrebound the Eagles, 27-22. ADMU was shooting 44 percent from the field while being able to hold DLSU at just 37 percent. 

During the beginning of the second half, shots were going in for both sides as was the great defense. DLSU G Aljun Melecio was able to drive through the lane for the 51-50 lead over Ateneo but Matt Nieto quickly responded with a three of his own to take back the lead for ADMU, his first since missing his first three in the game. The next few possessions turned to a three point shootout, with a total of three lead changes in a span of just 2 minutes. Ricci Rivero came up with two highlight plays during this stretch, one being a behind the back dribble slicing through defenders and a one handed baseline jam off a steal to snatch a 60-59 lead over Ateneo. At the end of the third, the game is tied at 66. La Salle again outscored Ateneo 28-21.

Now in the last 10 minutes of the season, DLSU’s star players Ben Mbala and Ricci Rivero were both playing with three fouls each. Matt Nieto finally recaptured the lead for the Eagles with a three pointer and Asistio made it a back-to-back three which was all part of their 8-0 run to make the lead 76-68 in Ateneo’s favor with just 5 minutes left in the game. DLSU shot poorly from the perimeter as they were 0-for-7 until Aljun Melecio shot a three to keep DLSU’s hopes for a repeat alive. DLSU came up with several clutch plays including a 4 point play from Mbala and Rivero and a clutch three from G Andrei Caracut to cut Ateneo’s lead to just 2. With less than a minute left, Ateneo led 82-80. Ateneo C Isaac Go came up for the dagger once again with a contested three. Aljun Melecio’s second chance three wasn’t enough as ADMU sealed the game with two free throws. As time expired, Andrei Caracut threw a three pointer that counted. 


Ricci Rivero and Ben Mbala of DLSU hug each other in tears in defeat (Photo Courtesy of Ian Genada)


Ateneo captured their 9th championship, their first in 5 years. They now lead the all-time finals series against La Salle, 3-2. The Adamson Soaring Falcons won 2nd runner-up while the De La Salle Green Archers won 1st runner-up. Isaac Go won the Manulife Heart and Hustle Player while the PS Bank Player of the Finals and UAAP 80 Finals MVP was awarded to Thirdy Ravena, who averaged 16.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 1.3 SPG in three games throughout the Finals.


How Can Ateneo Win Game 3?

Beating La Salle in a championship is difficult but doable

Coming into the Season 80 of the UAAP, everyone was expecting one team to dominate the season like it did last year. That team, of course, is none other than the De La Salle Green Archers who are now being led by two-time MVP Ben Mbala. However, the Green Archers were dealt with a surprising loss by the UP Fighting Maroons and of course, bowing down to the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles at the end of the first round.
The Archers, however, ended the Eagles’ 13-game winning streak which ensured a Final 4. La Salle then faced and beat the Adamson Falcons in their Final 4 match-up- a game which was put into question due to what the Falcons’ coaching staff thought was a biased officiating. The game was reviewed by the UAAP Board and found that there were questionable fouls that were called against both teams but, no replay of the game was required.
This year’s Finals series between Ateneo and La Salle is more unpredictable than it was last year. Ateneo won Game 1 after a hard-fought battle but La Salle came back to win Game 2 by erasing a 21-point deficit.
As a result, we’ll have Ateneo-La Salle. One more time. Tomorrow. All for the championship.
Question: Can Ateneo win it all tomorrow?

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Yes. Provided…

The Blue Eagles can win the championship tomorrow if:
  1. Defend Ben Mbala. They’ve already done that in the first round and in Game 1 of the Finals. Go back to those games and look at how they were able to limit the offensive output of the reigning MVP. You do that. You increase the chance of beating the champs.
  2. Sustain their intensity. One of the many reasons why La Salle was able to force a Game 3 was the inability of the Blue Eagles to sustain a big margin after working hard to build that lead during the early goings of the game. If Ateneo is to win the championship, they will need to find ways to hold onto the lead. Sustain a high level of energy throughout the entire game.
  3. Consistency. This is one of the things Ateneo was sorely lacking during the rest of Game 2. They were hot offensively during the entire first quarter but went ice-cold during the rest of the game.The Blue Eagles need to maintain their consistency especially when shooting from the three-point line. 

    Conclusion

    Ateneo will be faced with a daunting task that seems impossible at first. But if you come to think of it, Tab Baldwin and his boys have beaten the men in green twice already this season. They just need to rediscover how they were able to win those games. 

    Another Collapse: La Salle Erases a 21-Point Lead, Force Game 3

    2-time MVP Ben Mala comes up with big numbers

    Ben Mbala recovered from his worst career game to help La Salle force a Game 3.
    Coming into this best-of-three Finals series, the De La Salle Green Archers are tagged as the heavy favorites to win the championship anew owing to the fact that they have the two-time MVP Ben Mbala and an equally impressive sophomore in Ricci Rivero leading the team plus a surging Aljun Melecio. And, the Archers handed the top-seeded Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles their only loss in the 14-game elimination round which subsequently denied the Eagles an outright slot in the Finals.
    But came along Game 1. The Blue Eagles surprised everyone else when they limited La Salle’s scoring machine, Ben Mbala, to a career-worst 8 points on 3 for 7 shooting. And Ateneo came away with a 76-70 win to move a win away from the championship.
    In Game 2, everyone was expecting La Salle to fight back right from the opening tip but, it was still Ateneo who went up by as high as 21 points. However, that was the last of it as the defense of the Green and White finally started to click in during the second quarter which allowed La Salle to come within 9 points at the half- en route to taking Game 2 on a 92-83 win over the Eagles which set-up a winner-take-all match on Sunday.
    How did it happen?  Below are the numbers:

    The Mbala Effect. Plus More

    As mentioned above, Ben Mbala was hardly a factor during the series’ opener but in the second game, the two-time MVP made sure that his presence was felt on both sides of the court as he led La Salle with 20 points, 16 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks. However, Mbala wasn’t alone either. Ricci Rivero, despite having 4 fouls before halftime, scored 18 points while the dynamic duo of Aljun Melecio and Andrei Caracut combined for 25 points. 

    Third Quarter Defense

    La Salle gave up 32 points in the first quarter alone when they allowed Ateneo to build that big lead. Defense enabled the Green Archers to cut down the lead to 9 points at the half and from there, it was all La Salle. Aldin Ayo’s boys played stingy defense in the 3rd quarter which limited Ateneo to only 8 points on a horrible 3 for 17 shooting. La Salle on the other had 26 points in that 3rd quarter- making 9 of their 14 attempts.

    Ateneo’s Ice-Cold Shooting from 3

    Ateneo has been known as a team who likes to shoot threes. In the first half of Game 2, the Blue Eagles went 6 for 12 from the three-point line- 3 from Anton Asistio in the first quarter alone, things went south the rest of the way for the Blue and White as they only converted one of their ELEVEN attempts from rainbow country during the entire second half. Overall, La Salle’s defense limited Ateneo to only 34% field goal shooting. 

    Conclusion

    Simply put it this way: Ateneo needs to learn how to hold onto that big lead if they are to win Game 3. For La Salle, on the other hand, they need to find a way to clamp down on D during the early goings of the game because they cannot rely on Ben Mbala to get them to the promised land. 
    Game 3 is on Sunday. Who will win? This basketball pundit on wheels says it’s gonna be La Salle. Again. Why? Unless Tab Baldwin has something in mind to contain the MVP, Mbala will be unstoppable. As he was in Game 2. 

    By the Numbers: How Ateneo Took Game 1

    The Blue Eagles didn’t shoot well. But…

    One team almost missed the Finals after getting pushed to a do-or-die game back in the Final 4. Fortunately, that team managed to hang on and got things done. On the other hand, the other team made the Finals after dealing with their Final 4 problem in just one game- despite the controversies surrounding the apparent “biased” officiating that their opponents were whining about a day after the game was played. 
    As a result, we are treated to another Ateneo-La Salle Finals slugfest. And Game 1 of the best-of-3 championship series didn’t disappoint the 15,000 fans who watched at the Mall of Asia Arena yesterday as they were treated to a heated game- a typical scene for an Ateneo-La Salle game.

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    Blood spilled. Elbows were thrown. Bodies were flying everywhere. In the end, the Blue Eagles were able to score just enough and defend late in the 4th quarter to take Game 1 via a 76-70 win over the Green Archers in a game wherein two-time MVP Ben Mbala was not a factor, at all. 
    So how did the Blue Eagles pull off another victory against the mighty Archers? Below are the numbers:

    Defense on Big Ben

    Like it or not, defending Ben Mbala can be a big headache for any team. But in Game 1 of the Finals, not only did Ateneo defenders force Mbala to miss 4 of his SEVEN attempts which resulted to him only scoring 8 points throughout the game, the Blue Eagles defended Mbala so well that he was forced into making 3 turnovers. He also had 4 fouls although he did grab 12 rebounds for the Archers.

    Second-Half Surge

    Matt Nieto met Ben Mbala’s powerful elbow and sustained a cut in his head. Bloody cut, indeed.
    After seeing his twin brother getting hurt, Mike got to retaliate in the second half by scoring all of his 11 points in the final 20 minutes of the game and that was one of the good reasons why Ateneo came out on top. Even though La Salle was threatening late in the game as they cut the lead to a single point, Mike Nieto made sure that the Blue Eagles held on as he also had help from Thirdy Ravena and Isaac Go who scored the three-point play to ice the game.

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    Free Throws

    Sure, the Blue and White only shot 36% from the field including 27% from the three-point line but they managed to fish 25 fouls from the La Salle defenders which enabled Ateneo to take 30 free throws, making 20. La Salle, on the other hand, went 11 of 19 from the free throw line.

    Conclusion

    This series is definitely far from over and if you’re Ateneo, expect La Salle, most especially Ben Mbala to come out more aggressive come Game 2 on Wednesday. La Salle hasn’t lost two straight games in 2 seasons. And we can be sure that Aldin Ayo doesn’t intend to break that run now. 

    Rumor of Ayo’s Move to UST Continues to Make Noise

    A Wheeler’s Opinion: Aldin Ayo to UST: Will it Happen?

    Rumor has it that some alumni of La Salle have grown “unhappy” with Ayo. 
    Aldin Ayo came to the De La Salle Green Archers right after leading the Letran Knights to an NCAA championship in 2015. And Coach Ayo wasted no time as he led the Archers in winning the first 13 games of the UAAP Season 79 before surprisingly dropping the last game against the equally-surprising Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles that denied La Salle an outright Finals berth. 
    Both teams went on to meet again in the Finals which was won by La Salle of course, in two close encounters. That made Aldin Ayo the first coach to win two consecutive championships from the NCAA and the UAAP. 
    Fast forward to Season 80 of the UAAP, Ateneo and La Salle will meet again in the Finals which kicks off with Game 1 this Saturday. 
    Ateneo, like La Salle did last year, blew the chance of sweeping the 14-game elimination rounds after dropping the final game against La Salle. Then, the Blue Eagles had to survive a do-or-die game against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws before sealing the ticket to the Final dance with Ben Mbala and the rest of the defending champions.
    As both teams are busy preparing for another Finals clash between two fierce rivals, a rumor came out from various media outlets. The rumor: Aldin Ayo will take over the head coaching job at the helm of the UST Growling Tigers- a team that dropped its first 13 games before holding on to a win during the final game against the UE Red Warriors.
    Wait! What? Aldin Ayo to UST? If you are to believe the rumor, yeah. The current La Salle coach is on his way to Espana.
    But will it happen?

    Impossible

    Let’s be realistic, folks. You’re winning in La Salle. You’re about to coach in your 3rd consecutive Finals in 3 seasons and you are poised to win another championship. And as far as La Salle officials are concerned, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco- the man who was behind bringing Ayo to Taft, is happy with Ayo at the helm of the Green Archers- that he is very happy with the huge amount of success that the team is currently enjoying despite notable losses this season. So generally speaking, it’s impossible for Aldin Ayo to make the move to Espana anytime soon. There’s simply no reason for him, at the moment, to make such a move.

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    But

    Nobody thought that Aldin Ayo would move to La Salle until it actually took place. Having said that, La Salle fans can only pray that this rumor will stay as a rumor because whether we like it or not, anything can happen.

    Conclusion

    UST is in need of a new coach to make the Tigers competitive again. And assuming the Ayo move materializes, it will need more than just a coaching change for UST to become competitive again come Season 81. But the question is: will the move materialize indeed? We’ll need to play the wait-and-see game. 

    A Wheeler’s Opinion: Will the Blue Eagles Recover?

    Or will the Tamaraws bury Ateneo’s 13-1 season for good?

    Can FEU prevent another Ateneo-La Salle Dream Finals?
    The Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles had a chance to go straight to the Finals had they swept the elimination rounds. They failed to do so. They also had the chance to go to the Finals during their first Final 4 match-up against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. And yet, they failed. Horribly. Now? The Tamaraws have the one chance to do something unique: eliminate an Ateneo team that swept the season’s first 13 games before losing to the De La Salle Green Archers in their final game.
    The question is:  Can the wards of Olsen Racela finally overcome the twice-to-beat disadvantage?
    The answer is:  Yes.
    If you look back at how FEU defended Ateneo in the first game, Ateneo did make 10 shots from three but missed 22 shots. All in all, the Blue Eagles shot 36% from the field and that was one of the things that lost them the game.
    Another thing that enabled FEU to forge a sudden-death match later was the notable contributions from Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani- both used to play for Ateneo before transferring to FEU. Tolentino, a Rookie of the Year awardee, scored 13 points while Cani provided the additional firepower off the bench to score 11 points. If anything, both former Eagles caused the biggest problems for Tab Baldwin and they will be a problem anew should Ateneo fails to defend later.

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    The question now for the Blue and White: Can they recover from their 2-game losing streak?
    The answer is: Yes. Assuming they go back to how they won the season’s first 13 games- by scoring more and shooting more efficiently.

    Don’t Count Ateneo Out. Just Yet.

    After FEU handed out Ateneo its second consecutive defeat last Sunday on an 80-67 victory, some people were saying that Ateneo has already lost their killer instinct. While this may be true, we shouldn’t be throwing Ateneo out of the picture. Just yet. Why? 
    Sure, Thirdy Ravena and company shot mostly bricks during the first game but once the shots start to drop for Anton Asistio and the rest of the shooters, they will be hard to stop. The key for Ateneo is really simple: Take as many open shots as you can. Build up confidence as they say.
    For FEU, defense is an important key to beating an offense-oriented team like the Blue Eagles. 

    Conclusion

    Ateneo fans can only hope that their team will rediscover how good their team was during their 13-game winning streak. Why? It will help them win later. And it will help them against La Salle in the Finals- should both teams meet again.

    A Wheeler’s Opinion: The Adamson Protest: Will it Work?

    Franz Pumaren and company file a protest against what they thought was a biased officiating 

    Franz Pumaren and company file a protest
    Photo by PBA Media Bureau
    Over the past weekend, the Final 4 of the UAAP Season 80 kicked off and was a mixture of fortunes. On one hand, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws took advantage of the horrible, ugly offensive performance by the top-seeded Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles who by the way, absorbed their second consecutive loss after winning 13 straight elimination games. That’s the reason why both teams will face again tomorrow to decide who will face the defending champions in the Finals.
    Speaking of the defending champions, the De La Salle Green Archers are already Finals thanks to their quick job against the Adamson Falcons. However, that game was to be put in jeopardy as the Falcons formally submitted a formal protest yesterday against what the coaching staff called as the “worst officiating” that  Head Coach Franz  Pumaren had ever seen.  
    How bad was it? Below are the disparities that Franz Pumaren had been ranting about:  
    • Free throws awarded
      • Adamson: 5
      • La Salle: 39
    • Fouls called against
      • Adamson: 33
      • La Salle: 12
    Now, the UAAP has already taken action, suspending three referees who officiated the game. And with the protest already filed, officially,  the UAAP board will now review what went wrong and will see if there will be a need for a rematch. However, in an interview with CNN Philippines, UAAP Commissioner for Basketball, Rebo Saguisag, mentioned that the mistakes that were “made” during the game were not enough for the game to have a rematch. So, let’s just check out the possible scenarios below:

    Adamson Wins Protest: Rematch Granted

    Okay. This may sound simple and complex in many ways. Assuming that the UAAP board concluded that the officiating during that specific game was as bad as Pumaren was claiming and it will grant a rematch, then La Salle will have no choice but to play against the Falcons, again. However, La Salle, specifically Head Coach Aldin Ayo, shouldn’t mind a rematch. Why? They’ve beaten Adamson twice in the elimination rounds. They have the now two-time MVP Ben Mbala on board. And, they have the twice-to-beat advantage.

    No Rematch. Protest Turned Down

    Simple. No rematch. No further action will be taken. Everybody will move on and the Green Archers are still waiting in the Finals. 

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    Conclusion

    Let’s just hope and pray that whatever the UAAP board will do about Adamson’s protest, everyone will respect it regardless of who will benefit from the decision. For La Salle, with or without Adamson’s protest, they should be preparing for the Finals. For Adamson, on the other hand, it’s a wait-and-see game. 

    FEU forces do-or-die game versus Ateneo with a 80-67 win.

    The fourth-seeded Far Eastern University Tamaraw showed their composure by beating the top-seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles 80-67 on their UAAP Season 80 Semifinals match-up at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. 
    Ron Dennison led the Tamaraws with 17 points and 8 rebounds. 
    Blue Eagles have the edge coming in the Semifinals Round  with a twice to beat advantage. But the Tamaraw forces a do-or-die game on Wednesday 4:00PM at Mall of Asia Arena.

    Boxscore:

    FEU Tamaraws 80 – Dennison 17, Tolentino 13, Cani 11, Orizu 10, Escoto 9, Inigo 8, Trinidad 5, Parker 4, Ebona 3, Comboy 0, Bayquin 0, Ramirez 0, Stockton 0, Tuffin 0.

    ADMU Blue Eagles 67 – Ravena 17, Mi. Nieto 13, Ma. Nieto 11, Go 9, Tolentino 5, Mendoza 4, Asistio 3, Tio 3, Verano 2, Ikeh 0, Black 0, Mamuyac 0, Mallillin 0.

    Quarters: 21-15, 38-35, 59-48, 80-67.

    Ben Mbala playing on a higher level towards Final Four

    UAAP reigning MVP Ben Mbala of De La Salle University Green Archers is living up to the expectations from the green side by posting incredible numbers towards entering the Final Four on UAAP Season 80. Mbala posted a double-double performance by scoring 28 points and grabbing 19 rebounds to lead the Green Archers with a win over arch-rivals Ateneo Blue Eagles on their second round meeting at the Araneta Coliseum. Mbala also added 6 steals and 6 blocks on the defensive end.

    The Archers won 79-76 over the Eagles. The win avoided Ateneo in sweeping the UAAP Season Elimination round. La Salle ended Ateneo’s 13-game winning streak. Mbala made sure that a Final Four will happen this season and no step ladder to Ateneo straight to the Finals.

    The UAAP Season 80 Final Four is now set. The #2 seed DLSU Green Archers will face the #3 seed Adamson Falcons on Nov 18 Saturday at Araneta Coliseum. While the top seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles will face #4 FEU Tamaraws on Nov 19 Sunday at Araneta Coliseum.

    By the Numbers: What Doomed the Blue Eagles Against La Salle?

    Ateneo had the chance for an automatic Finals berth but failed. Miserably

    De LaSalle Green Archers Fans
    The fans of the Green Archers have many reasons to cheer about after yesterday’s win.

    If you will recall what happened last season, the De La Salle Green Archers, then led by Jeron Teng and Ben Mbala had the chance to sweep the elimination round heading into game number 14 which was against none other than the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. 
    To everyone’s surprise, the Blue Eagles, a team nobody else expected to make the Final 4 that season, did the unexpected and handed the Green Archers their first and only loss of Season 79 as both teams went on to face each other in the Finals which was won by the Green Archers.
    Yesterday, it was a complete reversal of roles. The Blue Eagles headed into their final game of the elimination round with a 13-0 record. 
    In fact, the Blue Eagles even held a 12-point lead in the 4th quarter until La Salle Coach Aldin Ayo removed his Ralph Lauren jacket and threw it on the floor in frustrations. 
    The result: the Green Archers went on a 10-0 run en route to a 79-76 victory over the Blue Eagles which restored a Final 4 platform which will start this coming Saturday to determine who will face who in the Finals.
    How did La Salle’s spoil the fun for the Blue Eagles in a game that wasn’t decided until the final possession? Check the numbers below:

    Big Ben with Big Numbers

    Let’s start with the obvious one. If there’s one guy who could lead La Salle to victory as we saw last season, it’s the big guy in the middle, the reigning MVP, Ben Mbala. 
    In yesterday’s game against the guys in blue, Mbala scored 13 points in the 2nd quarter alone en route finishing the game with 28 points, 19 rebounds, 6 steals and 6 blocks for another MVP-worthy performance and he was unchallenged for most parts. 
    In fact, Mbala’s defensive presence in the dying seconds of the game prevented Ateneo from taking the lead. Mind you, #23 was hurt during the game but came back and scored crucial points down the stretch. 

    21 Points from Ricci Rivero

    Sure, Ateneo failed to contain Ben Mbala but Ricci Rivero? If anything, Ateneo’s equally costly failure to defend Ricci Rivero is another thing that cost them an automatic Finals berth in the first place. The younger Rivero scored 21 points- on an efficient 7 of 13 shooting, to compliment Mbala’s 28. 

    La Salle’s Experience Prevailed in the 4th

    The Green Archers outscored the Blue Eagles 25-13 in the final quarter alone. Even though they fell behind by as much as 12 points, they kept their composure which enabled them to hold onto the lead. 
    Overall, it was La Salle’s defensive pressure that kept Ateneo from sweeping through the elimination round. They clamped down on defense. They forced Tab Baldwin’s boys to take low percentage shots and commit silly turnovers (22). 

    Conclusion

    Sweep or not. We all know that Ateneo and La Salle will meet again in the Finals unless both FEU and Adamson can overcome the twice-to-beat advantages that both Ateneo and La Salle are holding heading into the Final 4. 
    For Ateneo, absorbing their first loss of the season will help them in the Final 4 as it will motivate them to do better in the semifinal round especially if they want to contend for another championship.
    For La Salle, beating Ateneo, again, should not be a big deal for them because what should matter more is the championship. Beating their archrival is only a bonus if anything. 

    Deja vu: Another thrilling game between La Salle and Ateneo but this time the Green Archers takes home the W

    Ben Mbala scored a game high 28 points against Ateneo Blue Eagles in their 79-76 victory.

    DEJA VU!

    For Ateneo and De La Salle it was a little bit of deja vu. But this time in favor of the Green Archers. 
    And it led to De La Salle University denying Ateneo de Manila University of sweeping the UAAP Season 80 elimination round. The Green Archers took home the W with the score of  79-76. 
    Like their first meeting, the Ateneo vs DLSU matchup ended with a pair of clutch free throws but this time it was Ricci Rivero of the Green Archers who sealed the game. The Blue Eagles and the Green Archers started the game with so much physicality. The Green Archers were able to execute their mayhem defense but the Blue Eagles matched it with better offense. 
    The Green Archers only led 37-35 at the half. However, at the start of the second half, the Blue Eagles turned the tables as they took a 9 point lead, 63-54, at the end of the third quarter by sticking to the good game plan by coach Baldwin. 
    However, DLSU tightened their defense at the fourth quarter. Led by Ben Mbala, the Green Archers clawed their way back into the game. Despite the non whistle calls by the referees like the no travel call of Ateneo, La Salle kept their composure and they were able to make eight straight points before a nice spin move and a floater from Kib Montalbo with 40.3 seconds left which gave the Green Archers the lead. The DLSU crowd erupted as the ball fell at the bottom of the net. The Green Archers took a 77-76 advantage and forced Ateneo to take a time out. 
    The mayhem defense by the Green Archers almost did not work against a play drawn by coach Tab Baldwin which set up Isaac Go for a wide open basket but Go blew the semi-hook and missed the shot as Mbala tried to contest the shot. Rivero was able to get the rebound and was then fouled. This led Ricci Rivero into the line.
    Ricci Rivero finished the game with 21 points as he scored both free throws. Ateneo tried to tie the game but Asistio was blocked by Ricci. 
    Ricci rushed to the bench as the buzzer sound and pounded his chest with joy as they handed Ateneo their only lost for the elimination round of UAAP season 80.
    Ben Mbala led  all scorers with with 28 points, 19 rebounds, 6 steals and 6 blocks while Ricci Rivero also contributed 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks along with his 21 points.
    Thirdy Ravena led Ateneo with 15 point while Isaac Go and Matt Nieto scored 13 and 12 points respectively.
    Box Scores:
    DLSU 79 – Mbala 28, Rivero R 21, Tratter 8, Santillan 7, Melecio 6, Montalbo 6, Go 3, Caracut 0, Rivero P 0, Baltazar 0, Paraiso 0
    ATENEO 76 – Ravena 15, Go 13, Nieto Ma 12, Verano 9, Mendoza 7, Asistio 6, Tolentino 6, Ikeh 4, Porter 3, Nieto Mi 1, Mamuyac 0, Black 0

    By the Numbers: Ateneo Remains Undefeated After Frustrating UP

    UP fought until the Blue Eagles took off for good late in the 4th

    Ateneo Blue Eagles vs La Salle Green Archers
    Ateneo can end the elimination rounds with a 14-0 record with another win against La Salle.

    Sure, the league-leading Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles were able to keep their unblemished state after beating the UP Fighting Maroons, 96-82- in a game that wasn’t decided until the final quarter the Blue Eagles, like they did in their previous games, allowed their opponents to stay within striking distance and only take control of the game in the 4th quarter. 
    Sure, the Blue Eagles now have the chance to sweep the elimination rounds and book their ticket to the Finals that will equip them with a thrice-to-beat advantage. 
    However, don’t be fooled by the final score as the game was competitive as UP led as much as 12 points before Ateneo came back charging.
    How competitive the round 2 of the “Battle of Katipunan” was? 
    Below are the numbers:

    3-Point Shooting: What Kept UP in the Game. And Not.

    Keep in mind that it was actually the UP Fighting Maroons who first beat the defending champions back in their first round. That game saw the Fighting Maroons took 35 shots from beyond the arc and made 16 of them. Against the same team in their second-round encounter, Bo Perasol’s boys only took 32 shots. The result: the Maroons lost. 
    Against the Blue Eagles, UP was relatively hot from the three-point line in the first half as they made 50% of their 16 attempts from deep but come the second half, the Fighting Maroons faltered from outside as they only made 3 of 15 from that area, a forgettable 20% shooting. 
    Sure, Ateneo was even worse off the three-point line as they only made 7 out of their 24 attempts from that distance but if you missed 18 threes in the second half alone, you cannot expect to win.

    Ateneo’s Bench Stepped Up

    Sure, Thirdy Ravena only made 2 of his 11 attempts and only scored 10 points but he didn’t have to score more as Isaac Go and Gian Mayumac each scored 13 points, leading Tab Baldwin’s bench troopers. In fact, these two Blue Eagles off the bench almost outscored the entire bench of UP who only managed 29 points, a far cry to the entire bench of Ateneo who combined for 49 of the Eagles’ 96 points. 

    Ateneo Shut Down Desiderio

    Paul Desiderio had 16 points against Ateneo yesterday but only had 3 points after halftime. This can be associated with the amazing job of Third Ravena and Matt Nieto who took turns in defending and frustrating UP’s main guy on offense. Overall, the Eagles’ defensive efforts were not wasted as they were rewarded with their 13th win in 13 games- all thanks to limiting Desiderio to 33% shooting from the field, including 30% from 3. 

    Conclusion

    The Blue Eagles will have the opportunity to sweep the elimination rounds assuming they beat La Salle anew. But knowing that this is another Ateneo-La Salle slugfest, anything can happen especially when we look at how their first-round encounter ended, Ateneo can only hope that Thirdy Ravena will regain his groove come Sunday because the Eagles will need everyone on board especially when defending Big Ben Mbala. 
    Mind you, folks, it was Ateneo who snapped La Salle’s 13-game winning streak last season. Now? La Salle has the firepower to return the favor. 

    A Wheeler’s Opinion: Why Ateneo won’t Win in the Finals against La Salle?

    That’s assuming Ateneo sweeps the elimination rounds. And La Salle goes to the Finals, Too

    The Blue Eagles are aiming for a possible sweep of the elimination rounds heading into their last 2 games: one of them is against La Salle. 
    Sure, Thirdy Ravena soared up for a posterizing dunk in the dying minutes of the Blue Eagles’ 102-83 victory against the still winless UST Growling Tigers. 
    Sure, the Blue Eagles were able to keep their undefeated slate with 2 more games to play. 
    Sure, they can relax a little bit against the UP Fighting Maroons whom they will face next on Wednesday but knowing Tab Baldwin, he wouldn’t do it. 
    It’s not in his character especially being recognized as an international coach. And if you’re facing a team like the Maroons, you should play as if you’re playing against the Ben Mbala-led Green Archers of La Salle because in case you haven’t been watching the UAAP, UP has accumulated 5 wins this season: one of them is against the Green Archers themselves so UP is not the team that Ateneo should be laughing at especially if they want to go straight to the Finals.
    Now, La Salle, despite not being the who is on a verge of sweeping their way into the Finals, remains as the favorites to repeat as champions. 
    Why? For one, they have the reigning MVP, Ben Mbala who is averaging 26 points per game this season and nobody in the league can match-up against him. 
    Another reason why La Salle is still a better team than Ateneo is Ricci Rivero. Rivero has been playing impressive basketball aside from his high-flying dunks. 
    Sure, Anton Asistio can knock down three after three after three but when it comes to athleticism, that’s where Ricci Rivero comes into the picture. In fact, it was Rivero’s 19 points that led the way for La Salle against the Blue Eagles back in their first-round encounter which Ateneo won, 76-75.
    If there’s one team who is capable of going to the Finals aside from the defending champions, it’s the Blue Eagles. 
    Why? They surprised everyone last season when they reached the Finals when everyone thought they wouldn’t even reach the Final 4. They were also the only team to beat La Salle last season. And they gave La Salle everything they had during the Finals and despite La Salle winning the championships thanks to the heroics of eventual Finals MVP Jeron Teng, everyone knew from that moment, Ateneo will be back in the Finals. 
    The question is: Can they finally get over the hump and beat La Salle?

    The answer is no

    Why no? Below are the reasons:

    Big Ben is a Big Problem

    Sure, Chibueze Ikeh has been playing his best season with the Blue Eagles but Ben Mbala won last season’s MVP for one reason: he caused the biggest problems for his opponents. 
    Sure, you can throw two or even three defenders against Mbala but given the fact that La Salle is also loaded with perimeter shooters, it’s not a strategy any coach would employ regardless of Mbala’s performance.
    Ateneo may have an emerging Ikeh plus an improving Isaac Go but defending Mbala is entirely a different thing. Big Ben may have scored 18 points against Ateneo back in the first round but we all know he can score more and we can expect to put up an MVP performance come the second-round encounter between both teams on November 12, 2017. And he will be haunting Ateneo should both teams meet again come the Finals. 

    Ateneo’s Dangerous Tendency

    If there’s one thing that could doom Ateneo’s chances of winning the championship for the first time since the Norman Black era, it’s their bad habit of letting their opponents stay within striking distance before finally stepping on the accelerator late in the game and breaking the game open. This was visible during yesterday’s game between Ateneo and UST where the Growling Tigers were actually within 5 points during the early goings of the Finals until Ateneo stepped on the gas and were never threatened the rest of the way. 
    The good thing was: it was only UST. It could have been worse had Ateneo was playing against La Salle. And Ateneo can’t play this way most especially against La Salle because whether Ateneo likes it or no, they were lucky against La Salle back in the first round. They allowed the Green Archers to actually take the lead in the 4th quarter only to win it thanks to a sorry La Salle turnover plus a pair of charities from Mike Nieto. 

    Conclusion

    Regardless if Ateneo sweeps the elimination rounds or not, we can expect both Ateneo and La Salle to meet again, at least two more times after November 12. For the Blue Eagles, it’s simple: Shut down Mbala and clamp down on defense and you beat the champs. Let the Archers hang around and you can say goodbye to a thrice-to-beat advantage in the Finals. 

    Ateneo Drops 9 Threes to Defeat Archrival De La Salle

    The Ateneo Blue Eagle needed 9 triples to defeat archrival De La Salle Green Archers with the score of 76-75 in UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball at MOA Arena. The win secured the top seed for the Blue Eagles and sweeping the first round of the elimination with an undefeated record 7-0.

     Matt Nieto was named best player of the game, scoring 16 points in the win.

    Combined 9 threes from Anton Asistio (4), Matt Nieto (3), and Jolo Mendoza (2), the Blue Eagles started the game with a 28-16 scoring in the 1st quarter mostly hitting from the three-point line while De La Salle Green Archers only shot 6/23 FG from the three-point line. 

    First Round Sweep: Ateneo Blue Eagles Outlasted La Salle Green Archers

    When defense matters the most. 

    Ateneo’s defense saves them on losing their first game of the tournament as they made back-to-back crucial stops together with clutch free throw shooting from Matt Nieto to give them a narrow 76 to 75 win against the defending champions, DLSU Green Archers.

    Matt Nieto drained 2 crucial free throws as he was fouled by Kib Montalblo after they force a steal on La Salle.
    La Salle actually attempted 2 short-range shots to try to steal the game but no avail.
    It was all Ateneo in the first half as Anton Asistio and Matt Nieto waxed hot from the outside and they led as much as 13 points. But La Salle came back at the second half and took a 1 point lead with few seconds remaining in the game but it was not enough.
    Ateneo remained as the only undefeated team in the tournament with a record of 7-0 while La Salle is still in solo second with 5-2 record.

    UAAP Season 80: Here Comes Big Ben!

    Image may contain: one or more people and basketball court
    Coming off from a great stint in AfroBasket, DLSU’s main man is back and it seems he’s a lot better now. Playing with Adamson today, he posted a monstrous stat line with 32 Points, 10 Rebounds, 4 Blocks, 11/16FG, 2/4 3pt FG, helping them to win the game via 85 to 73 scoreline.
    Green Archers are now tied with Ateneo Blue Eagles with a 3-0 standing. Their next game will be on Saturday.

    Paul Desiderio on Game Winning Shot:"Ang dami ko ng tinira, mahihiya pa ba ako?"

    Even if he only made 1 of his first 10 attempts in the 3-point area, Paul Desiderio was still confident as ever.

    Down by 2 with five seconds remaining in the game. Paul received a pass from Jun Manzo coming from a curl then he rises up for the game winner. He finished the game with 17 points to lead UP to a 74-73 win against the UST Growling Tigers.

    Marvin Lee led the fight for UST with 20 markers while Ateve Akomo collected 15 points for a losing cost.
    Last year’s Juniors MVP, Juan Gomez de Llano debuted for UP with 7 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 15 minutes of playing time.