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La Salle books return trip to the Finals after firing late comebacker against Adamson

Back-to-back MVP Ben Mbala muscled La Salle's furious fightback to return to the Finals after withstanding Adamson's furious run. Francesca Nicole Collantes/Dugout Philippines
By Sabrina Suarez

QUEZON CITY -- This season's UAAP Final Four started with another intense match up between Adamson and La Salle wherein the champions booked a return ticket to the finals after a comeback win, 82-75 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday night.

Back-to-back MVP Ben Mbala posted another double-double of 27 points and 14 boards to lead the way for the Green Archers who are seeking for their 10th title overall in Men's Basketball.

Jerrick Ahanmisi lead the Falcons in its last game of the season, scoring 17 points in a losing cause to end the season in third.

Robbie Manalang and Dawn Ochea played out their final game for Adamson, with the point guard backstopping the swingman at 16, and the captain was shut out in their UAAP swan song.

In the opening period, both teams have an off start as the remained in single digit scores as the Falcons were only up by 1 come the halfway mark of the quarter. It was an unusual start for the Archers as their main man Ben Mbala was having trouble getting his game going; and the Falcons were dominating the boards. Nearing the end of the first period, Adamson dominated La Salle on both ends of the floor as they closed it with a 10-point lead.

Come the second quarter, the Falcons fired back the mini run made by the Archers with back-to-back plays which extended their lead to 12, 25-13; which led to La Salle's head coach Aldin Ayo to call a timeout.

Nearing the end of the first half, things got heated between the two teams as Adamson's Kristian Bernardo was called for an unsportsmanlike foul at the 1:21 mark.  Rob Manalang closes the first half for the Falcons with a 3-point shot, putting their lead back to six heading into the break.

Opening the third period, Adamson extended their lead to 8 as Rob Manalang shot another 3-pointer. Also early in the quarter, Ben Mbala drew Papi Sarr's 4th foul. Halfway through the period, the tight defense by the Falcons caused multiple turnovers for the Archers which led the former to pull away with a 15-point lead in which it was reduced to nine heading into the break.

Coming into the last quarter, La Salle's Jollo Go and Abu Tratter cut Adamson's lead down to 1 with a 3-point shot by Go followed by a completed 3-point play by the latter. Aljun Melecio made his presence felt when it mattered the most as he gave the 1-point lead back to the Archers for good with a long two-pointer.

Towards the dying minutes of the game, Santi Santillan shot a big 3, which gave the Archers with a 3-point lead, which was then followed by a big dunk by Ricci Rivero to extend the lead of the Archers to 6, 76-70.

With the Falcons hobbled due to foul trouble, the Archers capitalized it from the free-throw stripe as they moved on to defend their crown at the final hurdle.


La Salle 82 -- Mbala 27, Santillan 15, Ri. Rivero 14, Melecio 7, Montalbo 5, Caracut 4, Go 3, Tratter 3, Baltazar 2, Ra. Rivero 2, Paraiso 0

Adamson 75 -- Ahanmisi 17, Manalang 16, Hill 10, Lojera 7, Bernardo 6, Sarr 6, Manganti 5, Espeleta 4, Pingoy 2, Zaldivar 2, Ochea 0

Quarter scores: 11-21, 33-39, 54-63, 82-75

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