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Archers buck Ayo ejection, outlast winless Warriors

Rookie guard Aljun Melecio was a bright spot, enabling La Salle to stay perfect in six games (File/Denver Lachica)

By Ricky Manliguis

PASAY CITY—Not even the tossing out of Coach Aldin Ayo could shatter La Salle's will to win.

The Archers stayed on course for a first-round sweep, battling a furious University of the East rally and the throwing out of Ayo to beat the Warriors, 84-78, in the men’s seniors’ basketball action of UAAP Season LXXIX at the Mall of Asia Arena Wednesday.

Drawing a solid game from Prince Rivero, Aljun Melecio, and Andrei Caracut, the Taft-based dribblers weathered a UE storm in the fourth quarter to notch its sixth straight win.

The rookie coach was ejected in the 1:12 mark of the second period after arguing on a non-call committed by Wilson Baltazar on Thomas Torres. He will miss La Salle’s pivotal match-up against bitter rivals Ateneo on Sunday.

La Salle built a huge 18-point lead in the third quarter, only for the Warriors to stage a 25-12 rally behind Alvin Pasaol to trim the deficit to seven at the close of three, 62-55.

The lead then ballooned, thanks to Rivero, Melecio, and Caracut, who connected on a back-breaking trifecta for a 81-74 lead, time down to 61 seconds.

UE made one last stand to trim the gap to 81-78 on a Philip Manalang shot with 16.2 ticks left , before Rivero and Kib Montalbo put the icing on the cake with three of four free throws.

Ben Mbala played his usual game, scoring another double-double of 19 points and 17 rebounds on 4-of-9 shooting from the field. Rookie center Justine Baltazar had 14 points and nine boards.

Rivero accounted for 11 points and 10 boards in just 10 minutes of action, even as Montalbo and Caracut tallied eight each.

UE dropped its sixth consecutive match, as Pasaol led the way with a game-best 22 points and six rebounds, while Bonbon Batiller registered 13 and three assists.

The scores:

La Salle 84 – Mbala 19, Baltazar 14, Rivero P 11, Montalbo 9, Caracut 9, Teng 7, Melecio 5, Torres 4, Go 4, Perkins 2, Tratter 0, Paraiso 0, Rivero R 0

UE 78 – Pasaol 22, Batiller 13, Varilla 8, Derige 8, Manalang 7, Palma 7, De Leon 4, Bartolome 4, Penuela 4, Charcos 1, Gagate 0, Olayon 0, Abanto 0, Armenion 0, Acuno 0

Quarterscores: 25-15, 44-30, 62-55, 84-78

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