De La Salle University rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half and turned back Adamson University, 82-75, to return to the finals of Season 80 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
In a game marred by physical plays and questionable calls, the No. 2 seed Green Archers showed composure down the stretch as the defending champions claimed the first slot in the best-of-three championship series.
Ben Mbala anchored La Salle’s fightback after the Soaring Falcons threatened to force a winner-take-all after erecting a 52-37 advantage midway in the third period and he was joined by Aljun Melecio, Santi Santillan and Ricci Rivero in the pivotal fourth period to complete the come-from-behind victory.
“In the first half, we can’t execute our game plan. We gave up 14 turnover points. We we’re very sloppy in the first half,” said Green Archers head coach Aldin Ayo, who drew 27 points and 14 rebounds from Mbala.
“All game long, it was very hard for us. My players are hesitant to take the treys. I just told them to have the confidence in taking the shots,” he added.
Staring at a 54-63 deficit entering the fourth period, La Salle stepped up defense and started to connect with their rainbow shots to outscore the Falcons, 28-12, in the final 10 minutes.
Santillan and Rivero added 15 and 14 points, respectively, while Melecio poured all of his seven markers in the final period.
It was a tough loss for Adamson, which appeared to have the number of La Salle in the game after dominating the match majority of the way.
But the Falcons lost their poise after calls went against their way, allowing the Green Archers to seize control of the game with a momentum-swinging 14-0 run to start the payoff period to grab a 68-63 spread, 5:57remaining.
Kristian Bernardo’s back-to-back baskets stopped the bleeding for Adamson, 67-68, but La Salle responded with an 11-3 blast highlighted by a crucial triple by Santillan for a 79-70 advantage, under a minute left in the game.
The Falcons never recovered from that surge and it was noticeable that Adamson players and coaching staff did not approach the La Salle bench for the customary handshakes after the final buzzer sounded.
Adamson assistant coach Tonichi Yturri was also seen arguing with a La Salle fan.
“Worst officiating,” Falcons head coach Franz Pumaren shouted at the hallway of the Big Dome.
Pumaren complained of too many free throws awarded to La Salle. The Green Archers were given 39 bonus shots, making 26 of them. Adamson was awarded with just five free throws while hitting two.
Jerrick Ahanmisi, who was hounded by the pesky defense of Kib Montalbo, led the Falcons with 17 while Robbie Manalang tallied 16 points in his final UAAP game.
DLSU 82 – Mbala 27, Santillan 15, Rivero R 14, Melecio 7, Montalbo 5, Caracut 4, Tratter 3, Go 3, Rivero P 2, Baltazar 2, Paraiso 0
ADAMSON 75 – Ahanmisi 17, Manalang 16, Hill 10, Lojera 7, Sarr 6, Bernardo 6, Manganti 5, Espeleta 4, Pingoy 2, Zaldivar 2, Ochea 0
QUARTER SCORES: 11-21, 33-39, 54-63, 82-75