De La Salle wasn’t ready to yield its UAAP men’s basketball crown just yet.
Down by as many as 21 points in the second period, the reigning champion La Salle came charging back behind an explosive second-half offensive to smash Ateneo, 92-83 and force a decisive sudden death match in their UAAP men’s basketball Finals Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
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Stunned by the strong start of the Blue Eagles, the Green Archers showed the heart of a champion in the last two quarters, coming out more physical with two-time UAAP MVP Ben Mbala and Ricci Rivero leading at the front as a big throng of DLSU supporters, among the 15,286 fans that watched the game, erupted in frenzied celebration.
La Salle outscored Ateneo in the third canto, 26-8 to turn the tide against its long-time rivals as Archers took a 68-59 lead entering the last period.
The Archers sustained their intensity from there, managing to frustrate the Blue Eagles, whose best effort was to come close to 70-74. La Salle simply rode on Mbala, Rivero and Andrei Caracut’s scoring splurge late in the game that all but completed the Taft-based squad’s magnificent comeback.
Game 3 is set on Sunday also at the Big Dome.
Mbala led La Salle with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 4 blocks, Rivero added 18 while Caracut and Aljun Melecio added 13 and 12, respectively.
Thirdy Ravena led Ateneo with 20 points and 6 rebounds, but he also had 7 turnovers.