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Ateneo hands La Salle first loss, bolsters twice-to-beat bid

By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITYLa Salle's "Mayhem" has finally been controlled.

Ateneo dealt its archrival its first defeat of the UAAP season with an 83-71 rout at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday night.

The Blue Eagles soared late in the first quarter en route to a 44-36 halftime lead.

The Green Archers would cut the lead to three early in the third period, but the Eagles pulled away in the fourth, stretching the lead to as high as 18 while holding off one gallant stand by their opponents in the end.

Aaron Black had his best game since an injury that sidelined him for five games with 16 points, seven rebounds, and one block for Ateneo, which officially entered the Final Four and heightened its chance to get a twice-to-beat advantage.

Jeron Teng led La Salle with 18 points, but he only made six of 17 shots.

Ben Mbala added 17 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, and one block, but he was limited to 5-of-13 shooting and committed seven turnovers as Isaac Go played tremendous defense on him.

The result means that the stepladder playoff format has been shelved off and that the traditional 1-vs-4 and 2-vs-3 semifinal clashes will take place.

Box Scores:

Ateneo 83-Black 16, Ma. Nieto 15, Wong 11, Go 10, Asistio 9, Verano 6, Mendoza 4, Mi. Nieto 4, Ravena 4, Tolentino 4, Babilonia 0, Ikeh 0

La Salle 71-Teng 18, Mbala 17, Melecio 11, Montalbo 6, Caracut 6, P. Rivero 4, Tratter 3, Perkins 3, Torres 3, Sargent 0, R. Rivero 0, Go 0, Baltazar 0

Quarterscores: 23-16, 44-36, 61-50, 83-71

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno