By Jonas Terrado
(Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. – Adamson vs UST
4 p.m. – FEU vs NU
Black Sunday turned out to be a public demonstration of green superiority led by the stocky Ben Mbala.
Mbala lived up to his reputation as a menacing force in front of a sea of green, blue and black as the Green Archers thrashed the archrival Ateneo Blue Eagles in ruthless fashion, 97-81, last night to complete a first round sweep in the UAAP basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Without the injured Jeron Teng, the Cameroonian import more than double his effort to finish with 28 points, including several rim rattling dunks that wowed most of the 16,000 fans that included renowned trainer Freddie Roach wearing a La Salle shirt.
He added 13 rebounds and five steals to give La Salle a masterful win that was completed even without coach Aldin Ayo,
Ayo served a one-game suspension for attempting to put a pair of eyeglasses at an official against University of the East last Wednesday while Teng is expected to miss at least a week due to an injured ankle.
But even without its biggest personalities, La Salle’s self-proclaimed mayhem was once again in full effect.
“I told them right from the start to make life really hard for them. Kailangan mapunta kami sa ulo ng kalaban namin, that’s mayhem,” said La Salle assistant Louie Gonzales, Ayo’s trusted lieutenant since their days with Letran.
Andrei Caracut was one of many players who stepped up, scoring 11 of his 14 points during a telling 21-3 second quarter run that turned a 26-20 deficit into a 41-29 advantage.
Then Mbala produced one of his best dunks of the day with a vicious alley-oop slam off a Thomas Torres pass to make it 76-55 with two minutes remaining in the third. The Green Archers later posted their biggest lead at 85-58 during the fourth quarter, leaving the Blue Eagles in stunned disbelief.
The Green Archers proved to be only group that showed unity on the day officials of both schools urged fans to wear black shirts in reaction to the rising number of extrajudicial killings since President Duterte took office in late-June.
While pockets of fans heeded those calls, including the Blue Eagles who wore black shirts during warmups, most of the crowd opted to sport their school colors for different reasons.
Some believe that the game was not the proper venue to express such sentiment, while others expressed that sports and politics do not mix.
The La Salle-Ateneo spectacle overshadowed University of the East’s stunning 64-57 victory over Adamson in the first game. The Red Warriors leaned on Alvin Pasaol and RR de Leon in a fourth quarter turnaround to barge into the win column after a 0-6 start.