The last time the Green Archers lorded it over the Ateneo Blue Eagles was back in July 24, 2010, when former Archer Joseph Marata rifled in two triples in the final two minutes to swing the lead in La Salle’s favor. Simon Atkins made a split at the free throw line to peg the final count. Back then, the MOA Arena was still under construction, the Lakers and the Celtics had just finished a gruelling seven-game Finals series, and Jeron Teng was a Xavier Stallion, two years before he scored 104 points in a high school game.
The only players left in that line-up who still played for the Archers were Almond Vosotros, Luigi Dela Paz, Oda Tampus, LA Revilla, and Yutien Andrada, although the last three did not see action in the game earlier today. Vosotros and Dela Paz, however, did suit up for the Green-and-White, and they, along with the rest of the younger crop of Archers, strove and strove hard to erase the memories of these defeats, both barnburners and routs, against their arch-rivals.
After an anemic first half, the Green Archers used their defense to stop the humming Ateneo offense dead in its tracks, then erected a slim lead for most of the payoff period and held on to finally beat the Blue Eagles, 82-73, earlier today at the MOA Arena.
Vosotros, who has markedly improved his shot selection since hoisting fifteen triples a week ago against the Growling Tigers, scored 19 for La Salle, and added nine boards and an assist. Arnold Van Opstal banged in a career-high 18 points and added eight rebounds and two assists for the Archers, who trailed 40-28 after a shaky first half that saw Ateneo’s Chris Newsome pour in 18 markers, eventually finishing with a game-high 27.
Jeron Teng, despite shooting 6-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 from the line, turned in a double-double performance of 13 points and 10 rebounds while also dishing five assists. Dela Paz, who was sidelined for most of last year and the preseason due to an injury, added 10 points.
After a first quarter that saw the Eagles lead by as much as ten at 20-10, La Salle slowly inched their way back into the contest, coming to within a basket, 22-20, early in the second. But Ateneo uncorked a 15-4 run that allowed them to establish the game’s biggest lead at 38-24, after two charities by Von Pessumal.
A couple of buckets by Teng brought the lead back down to ten, but Newsome swooped in for another lay-up with five ticks left to bring the Ateneo lead back up to 40-28, sending the Green-clad gallery of fans into an uneasy intermission.
All those fears, however, were quickly assuaged as the Green Archers stormed out of the locker room by scoring six quick points to start the third period. Baskets by Ryan Buenafe, Newsome, Pessumal, and JP Erram stemmed the flow of the tide momentarily for the Blue Eagles, but after a triple by Vosotros with 5:31 left, the dam had burst open, and La Salle launched a 15-2 blitz of their own in a span of about three minutes to finally knot the count at 50, with 2:03 left in the period.
Juami Tiongson scored a basket to bring the lead back to Ateneo, but it proved to be the last time they would be in the driver’s seat as Van Opstal scored and completed and and-one play on the other end, and the period ended 59-56 in favor of the Green Archers, a stunning fifteen-point turnaround from the previous quarter.
The Blue Eagles scored their first five points in the fourth on free throws, as the Archers lead no more than four early in the period, before Teng and Jason Perkins scored buckets that pushed La Salle’s advantage to six, 70-64. Newsome scored on an acrobatic lay-up on the other end, but two charities by Teng and Van Opstal and another nifty hook by Van Opstal handed the Archers an eight-point cushion, 74-66.
Newsome would once more score for the Eagles, followed by a two-for-two trip at the line for Buenafe, but Dela Paz nailed a triple from the left corner that brought the lead back up to seven, 77-70, prompting a timeout from Ateneo Coach Bo Perasol and a raucous celebration from the Green Archers fans.
Elorde would get a steal on the other end, however, that brought the lead back down to five with a minute and seventeen left, but Dela Paz, once more seizing the moment in the harsh glare of the spotlight, nailed a jumper from the top of the key to put La Salle up 79-72, with 58 ticks left that proved to be back-breaking for their arch-rivals.
The win propelled the Green Archers to the upper half of the team standings, as they now hold a 2-1 win-loss card, while sending their arch-rivals to their third straight loss.
Notes: The Blue Eagles played for the third straight game without their leading scorer and best player in the preseason, Keifer Ravena; La Salle held a sizeable 48-32 edge in the rebounding department, including 16 offensive rebounds to Ateneo’s five;
La Salle- 82- Vosotros-19, Van Opstal-18, Teng-13, Dela Paz-10, Perkins-9, T. Torres-8, N. Torres-5, Reyes-0, Montalbo-0, Bolick-0
Ateneo -73- Newsome-27, Tiongson-14, Buenafe-11, Pessumal-6, Elorde-3, Golla-2, Tolentino-0, Capacio-0,Babilonia-0
Quarterscores: 16-20, 28-40, 59-56, 82-73