By JEROME LAGUNZAD
Game Today (Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
4 p.m. — Ateneo vs FEU
For the first 30 minutes of play, Adamson proved why it is a legitimate title contender. But the last 10 minutes showed why La Salle is the reigning champion.
The Archers dug deep into their bag of tricks to complete a come-from-behind 82-75 victory over the Falcons last night and advanced to the UAAP Season 80 basketball finals at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala tallied 27 points and 14 rebounds while Santi Santillan and Ricci Rivero combined for 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to help La Salle recover from a lackluster start and turn the tables on Adamson down the stretch.
The victory, its seventh overall since the start of the second round of elimination, enabled No. 2 La Salle to book a return trip to the best-of-three finals either against top-seeded Ateneo or fourth-ranked Far Eastern University starting next weekend.
Adamson, seeded third, got off to a rousing start and took control most of the way, leading by as many as 15 points twice in the third period but unraveled in the face of La Salle’s fightback in the final quarter.
The Green Archers scored 14 unanswered points to seize a 68-63 edge.
Adamson coach Franz Pumaren blasted the officiating.
“That’s the worst officiating. Hindi kami pinagbigyan ng pagkakataon maglaro,” said Pumaren as he made his way to the lobby.
He pointed to the glaring discrepancy in free throw attempts where the Archers took 39 attempts, making 26 while Adamson made just two out of five tries.
Still, Adamson stayed in the game behind Kristian Bernardo’s back-to-back buckets that pulled them within one.
But Mbala completed a three-point play, before Santillan countered Rob Manalang’s trey with his own from the right corner, giving them a 74-70 lead with under three minutes to play.
In the ensuing play, Koko Pingoy attempted a triple and appeared to be fouled by Rivero on his way up. No call was made as Pumaren raised his hands in frustration.
Rivero converted a two-handed dunk before Aljun Melecio scored off a putback for a 79-70 lead, time down to just 36.5 seconds.
“We were focused. We just focused on the game plan, especially on defense,” said La Salle coach Aldin Ayo, pleased with how the Archers limited the Falcons to just 12 points in the final period.
Jerrick Ahanmisi had a team-high 17 points while Manalang and big man Tyrus Hill had 10 points apiece for the Soaring Falcons, who made 11 triples but could only make two of those in the crunch.
DLSU 82 – Mbala 27, Santillan 15, Rivero R 14, Melecio 7, Montalbo 5, Caracut 4, Tratter 3, Go 3, Rivero P 2, Baltazar 2, Paraiso 0.
ADAMSON 75 – Ahanmisi 17, Manalang 16, Hill 10, Lojera 7, Sarr 6, Bernardo 6, Manganti 5, Espeleta 4, Pingoy 2, Zaldivar 2, Ochea 0.
Quarters: 11-21, 33-39, 54-63, 82-75.