De La Salle University rallied behind rookie center Ben Mbala to overpower Arellano University, 86-74, in the finals and claim the 2016 FilOil Flying V Pre-season Premier Cup title on Sunday at The Arena in San Juan City.
Mbala, who also bagged the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player awards, took an impressive output of 28 points, 26 rebounds and the league’s highest eight blocks in the match as La Salle wrapped up its campaign with an unbeaten record in 10 games La Salle survived the 32-point outing of Arellano court general Jiovanni Jalalon, who sank seven three pointers while notching six rebounds and five assists.
Arellano claimed the front seat in the opening frame, 26-21, highlighted by three straight triples of Jalalon but La Salle gained momentum in the second canto as Mbala converted back-to-back three point plays to pace his team within striking distance, 42-40, before the midgame.
The Green Archers began their ascent in the third quarter with rookie guard Aljun Melecio scoring a reverse lay up to take the upperhand, 54-52.
La Salle sustained its rallies down the stretch to snatch its first title under the new coach Aldin Ayo. Tratter and veteran forward Jeron Teng capped off the match with 13 points each while point guards Thomas Torres and Andrei Caracut had nine and seven points, respectively.
Mbala led the Mythical Five along with Teng, Tratter, Jalalon and Arellano’s Michael Salado.
Meanwhile, Ateneo de Manila University salvaged the third-place trophy after beating National University (NU), 66-54.
Chibueze Ikeh and Vince Tolentino led the Blue Eagles with 18 and 15 points, respectively while the former also added 17 rebounds to his total haul.
The Bulldogs started the game strong on both ends to take and early 12-point lead, 20-8, going into the second quarter of the game.
However, it was the Blue Eagles who took control of the second period, erupting for 28 points to enter the halftime break on the front seat, 36-26.
A slow start marred the third period for NU as they slowly fell away from their foes, 38-52, with just a quarter left to play in the match.
Ateneo ended its campaign in the pre-season tournament with a record of six wins against four losses while NU had a 7-3 win-loss card at the end of the competition.
JAELLE NEVIN REYES