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UAAP 79 Men's Basketball Finals Recap: Archers shoot down Eagles in Game 1

MANILA, Philippines - For the first time since 2008, we finally got to witness the greatest rivalry in Philippine Sports history.

                                                        Photo Courtesy of: Warleigh Lacson
   The first seeded De La Salle Green Archers (15-1) squared off against the second seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles (10-5) in the UAAP 79 Men's Basketball Finals Saturday night for the first time since 2008, a series that will forever be a classic and well loved by many Filipino basketball fans. 

The Mall of Asia arena was sold out with a whopping attendance of 16,712. One side of the arena was covered in Green shirts for La Salle while the other half was covered in Blue for Ateneo. In the first quarter, DLSU quickly went on a 6-0 run. Ateneo F Thirdy Ravena made a chasedown block against DLSU's Ricci Rivero as Ateneo's first highlight play. DLSU was able to go on an dominating 16-2 scoring run for the quarter. At the end of the first, The Archers lead Ateneo, 19-6.

When the game resumed in the second quarter, Ateneo's Norman Aaron black hit a three to start off things and hype up the Ateneo crowd. Followed by Black's three, another bucket by Ateneo cut La Salle's lead to 8, making the score 19-11. It was evident that DLSU committed lots of turnovers for this quarter. Despite the numerous turnovers by La Salle and being out scored by ADMU, 16-20, they managed to be up by 10. At the end of the first half, DLSU led ADMU 36-26.

At the half, the Archers were shooting 56 percent while ADMU was shooting at just 28 percent. La Salle's bench performed fairly making 4/9 field goals while Ateneo's bench only shot 2/16. DLSU's starters also outscored ADMU's starters 25-16. Also, The Archers led with 8 assists compared to the Eagles' 4. Top 10 MVP Candidate Thirdy Ravena of the Blue Eagles and teammate Adrian Wong combined for only 6 points shooting a combined 1/8 while shooting at a horrific 12.5 percent. Ateneo's Aaron Black led all scorers with 8 points while Ben Mbala led all Archers' with 7 points.

To start off the second half, Ateneo had first blood from a post-up shot. Wong had five straight points including a three pointer while Black split free throws and sunk a three to DLSU's lead to two, 44-42. Mbala responded with an and-one play and the Archers proceeded to go on an 8-0 scoring run including a trey by Aljun Melecio. In the closing minutes of the quarter, Matt Nieto cut DLSU's lead to one, 51-50. Ateneo's Rafael Verano tied things up after splitting free throws, 51-51. 2015 Rookie of the Year Andrei Caracut split free throws to put the Archers up 52-51 but was quickly tied up once again by ADMU's split free throws. At the end of the third, things were tied up at 52-52. DLSU was again outscored by ADMU 26-16.

During the last quarter of the game, everything was intense as the game was very fast paced. Melecio started off with a three pointer off the glass which sparked off an 7-0 run by La Salle making the score 59-52. Nieto's pair of free throws and three pointer cut the Archers' lead to two with the score being 59-57 and Chibueze Ikeh layup finally cut DLSU's lead to one 60-59. Melecio proved to still be on fire after another three to put DLSU up by 3. Ben Mbala had a monster block on Thirdy Ravena but the ball was quickly recovered by Ikeh for the easy layup putting ADMU behind DLSU by only one point at 64-63. During the last few minutes of the game, a controversial foul was called against La Salle, when it was clearly seen that an Ateno player elbowed two DLSU players defending him in the face while trying to secure the ball, which should've been a technical of either an flagrant foul agains the ADMU player for his actions. 

With a minute left in the game, emotions in the arena was mixed, some were cheering, some were quietly praying, while some were just watching the game in nervousness. The game was very intense and left everyone wondering: who will strike first blood in the series? DLSU was able to steal the ball in which Teng was able to sink a clutch jumper which was supposed to put DLSU up 66-64 with 37 seconds left in the game, but it was ruled out by referees after a lengthy review deeming that Teng was not able to get the ball of his hands in time before the shot clock ended. With ADMU in possession, Nieto was able to make a layup and was fouled with 34 seconds left, giving the Eagles their first lead of the game 65-64 with a chance to extend their lead to two with a free throw. Nieto failed to convert the and-one, and Teng responded quickly with a clutch layup that counted this time as DLSU retook the lead 66-65 with less than 30 seconds left in the game. 15 seconds left in the game clock, Ateneo ball, they either win the game or lose it. Aaron Black took the jumpshot but was swiftly blocked by Jeron Teng. Mbala grabbed the rebound and made a long pass to Kib Montalbo. Montalbo was fouled and split free throws to guarantee the Green Archers their first win of the series. Ateneo then attempted a half court three as a last ditched effort but simply missed. DLSU players stormed the court in celebration of their first win, Lasallians were roaring in excitement, and both Atenistas and Blue Eagles players watched in frustration as La Salles Alma Mater Hymn was playing. 

DLSU Center and reigning MVP Ben Mbala led all scorers and rebounders with a double-double (20 points, 15 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block) while Aaron Black led all Blue Eagles in scoring with 12 points and 8 rebounds.

Author's Take:
It was a lousy game during the first half. La Salle committed too many turnovers and shot almost poorly. Ateneo, on the other hand, also shot terribly. Both teams played great defense against each other. What I was most disappointed about was the officiating in the game, which was very one-sided and in Ateneo's favor. Like I said during the Final Four, if DLSU continues to play like this, they will have close games like these against Ateneo while Ateneo needs to hit shots if they want to get a win.

About the author:
Jerry Balot Jr. is a Grade 11 Student at De La Salle Santiago Zobel school. He aspires to become a journalist once he graduates college. Jerry's loyalty to all his sports teams from San Francisco is unmatched ever since he was born. Jerry also loves sneakers, music, and many other sports.

Twitter: _JerryGB   Instagram: jrryb   E-mail: jerryhansolo@icloud.com


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