Unbeaten De La Salle University battles rival Ateneo De Manila University as the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 79 men’s basketball tournament resumes today at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Green Archers, with a 12-0 win-loss record plus a twice-to-beat advantage going into the Final Four, will meet the Blue Eagles at 4 p.m. after the 12 p.m. match between the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors and the National University (NU) Bulldogs.
This is the first time that Aldin Ayo will be coaching La Salle against Ateneo. Ayo was on a one-game suspension when the Green Archers routed the Blue Eagles 97-81, in their first round match on October 2.
“Well some of the guys are excited but I’m nervous,” said Ayo. “I like it though because we’re not going to play complacent and the players will unleash their very best in the game. I expect it will be different this time because they are a well-coached team.”
“In that rivalry, the real game of both teams will also be showcased. Against Ateneo, we make sure we’ll give our best. We just have two games left but we’ll take it one game at a time and we’re going to respect our opponent. There are still a lot of things to happen.”
Rookie Ben Mbala, who already had 12 double-double performances, will be leading the Green Archers with skipper Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, Abu Tratter, Jason Perkins, Kim Montalbo, Andrei Caracut and Julian Sargent.
“I believe in leap of faith. You provide your best, God will provide the rest,” added Ayo.
The Blue Eagles, for their part, will try to hand the Green Archers their first loss this season. Ateneo is currently No.3 with a 6-4 win-loss record behind No.2 Far Eastern University with an 8-2 win-loss record
Ateneo will rely on forward Thirdy Ravena, Anton Asistio, Kris Porter, Aaron Black, Rafael Verano, John Wong, Michael Nieto and Ikeh Chibueze in their bout against the Archers.
In the first game, the Bulldogs will try to keep their Final Four hopes alive when they face the already-eliminated Red Warriors. NU, the 2014 UAAP champion, holds a 4-8 win-loss record against UE’s 2-9.
The Bulldogs will be relying on center Alfred Aroga, guard Jay-Jay Alejandro, Jess Diputado and Matt Salem in ending their six-game losing skid.
University of the Philippines beat NU, 71-66, in their last game.
JOSEF T. RAMOS