By JEROME LAGUNZAD
Game Saturday (Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
4 p.m. – La Salle vs Adamson
Defending champion La Salle turned the tables on arch-rival Ateneo last night, denying the Eagles a 14-game sweep and a free ride to the UAAP Finals.
Riding on the monster performance of Ben Mbala, the Archers pulled off a come-from-behind 79-76 win over the Eagles at the packed Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-7 Mbala tallied game-highs of 28 points, 19 rebounds, six steals and as many blocks, to avenge La Salle’s 76-75 loss to Ateneo in the first round.
The Archers also got key contributions from veterans Kib Montalbo and Ricci Rivero in the endgame.
Montalbo sank the go-ahead floater with 40.3 seconds while Rivero made two free throws and blocked Anton Asistio’s attempt to send the game into overtime.
Before a crowd of 13,967 screaming fans, La Salle gave Ateneo a dose of its own medicine.
Last year, the Eagles foiled the Archers’ own bid to sweep the eliminations.
The Archers, who swept the second round, face No. 3 Adamson on Saturday, needing only a victory to reach the finals.
The other semifinal game pits the Eagles against Far Eastern University.
“Big win,” said La Salle coach Aldin Ayo who watched his players battle back from seven points down.
“We got lucky in the end game, especially Isaac Go’s semi hook. It was uncontested. Luckily it did not go in. I have to commend the players for their effort, for sticking to the game plan especially during the end game.”
Rivero finished with 21 points, 12 of them coming in the final period, while Montalbo had six points, three rebounds and as many assists off the bench.
Thirdy Ravena had a team-high 15 points, 10 of them coming in the third period, while Go and Matt Nieto added at least 12 points apiece for the Eagles, who led by as many as 12 in the final quarter.
In the other game, University of Santo Tomas ended a 17-game losing streak by edging University of the East, 88-85.
The Tigers finished the tournament with a 1-13 win-loss card while the Warriors ended with a 3-11 record.
UST 88 — Basibas 21, Akomo 18, Caunan 14, Lee 11, Garcia 10, De Guzman 6, Sta. Ana 4, Escalambre 2, Macasaet 2, Romero 0, Huang 0, Faundo 0.
UE 85 — Pasaol 18, Varilla 16, Maloles 15, Conner 10, Acuño 8, Cullar 7, Manalang 7, Bartolome 2, Olayon 2, Derige 0.
Quarters: 23-15, 43-39, 63-61, 88-85.
DLSU 79 – Mbala 28, Rivero R 21, Tratter 8, Santillan 7, Melecio 6, Montalbo 6, Go 3, Caracut 0, Rivero P 0, Baltazar 0, Paraiso 0.
ATENEO 76 – Ravena 15, Go 13, Nieto Ma 12, Verano 9, Mendoza 7, Asistio 6, Tolentino 6, Ikeh 4, Porter 3, Nieto Mi 1, Mamuyac 0, Black 0.
Quarters: 17-22, 37-35, 54-63, 79-76.