MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED)– The Ateneo Blue Eagles won over the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers, 76-70, on Saturday, November 25 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Blue Eagles lead the best-of-three finals series 1-0 in the UAAP Season 80 men's basketball finals.
Isaac Go sealed the win for Ateneo, completing a 3-point play off a foul by DLSU's Kib Montalbo, 76-70, less than 10 ticks to go.
Ateneo held a slim lead entering the 4th quarter (60-58), but the Blue Eagles punctuated an early 9-1 run in the final frame. Aljun Melecio and Ben Mbala answered back with a combined 7-0 run after the timeout to get within 3 points (69-66). Melecio's jumper almost tied the game at 71-all with 2:10 left in the game, but it was downgraded to a 2-pointer. Thirdy Ravena then made a putback off Asistio's miss that saw Ateneo lead by 3 points as the final frame reached its 2-minute mark (73-70).
Ateneo had a balanced scoring effort in the game as 4 Blue Eagles put up double digits with Ravena leading the pack with 12 points. Twins Mike and Matt Nieto chipped in 11 points apiece while Anton Asistio followed with 10 points.
Melecio broke out with 24 points in the game – the best he had since he fell ill with dengue in the first elimination round – to lead the Green Archers. Mbala, on the other hand, produced his lowest scoring output of the season with 8 points and 12 boards.
It was a heated start to the match as both teams fought for the lead, but Ateneo's balanced team effort surpassed that of La Salle to end the first quarter up by double digits (26-14).
The Green Archers challenged the leading Blue Eagles further in the second quarter with more consistent presence of Mbala. The Green Archers were able to cut the lead to as much as two points as they were able to break the Blue Eagles' defense from the 3-point range. (36-34).
However, both teams drowned in fouls in the second period as Mbala and Chibueze Ikeh picked up double technical fouls for taunting with 4:17 left in the second period. Aljun Melecio was also called for an unsportsmanlike foul in the 2 minute mark of the quarter. Matt Nieto also went down on the ground with a bleeding forehead for pulling off a jumper to block Mbala and was called for a blocking foul.
Matt Nieto left bloodied after the accidental hit. (Warning: Graphic Image) #UAAPSeason80 pic.twitter.com/7RW8Ley8IM — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) November 25, 2017
Ateneo had an explosive 5-0 start to the second half that was immediately countered by the Green Achers as Santi Santillan made a top-of-the-key three that tied the game at 54-all with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
Both teams traded leads in the next 3 and a half minutes until Mike Nieto made his second tough floater that saw Ateneo lead by a small margin at the end of the third.
The Blue Eagles can wrap up the UAAP men's basketball Season 80 title in game 2 Wednesday, November 29, 4 pm at the Araneta Coliseum.
Ateneo (76) – Ravena 12, Nieto Ma 11, Nieto Mi 11, Asistio 10, Tolentino 9, Black 7, Verano 5, Go 5, Ikeh 4, Tio 2, Mamuyac 0, Mendoza 0, Porter 0.
DLSU (70) – Melecio 24, Rivero R 10, Mbala 8, Tratter 7, Santillan 7, Rivero P 7, Baltazar 4, Montalbo 3, Caracut 0, Go 0, Tero 0, Paraiso 0.
Quarter Scores: 26-14, 43-39, 60-58, 76-70.
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.