Ben Mbala posted huge numbers as De La Salle University routed Colegio de San Juan de Letran, 93-77, to seal the last quarterfinals berth in the 11th FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup on Friday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Mbala notched a monstrous double-double of 45 points and 17 rebounds as the defending preseason tournament champions booked anew a trip to the playoffs with a 5-3 win-loss record.
“Everything that we do right now (in the preseason) is dedicated to our preparation for the UAAP,” noted La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo, who a former mentor of Letran who led the Knights to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship in 2015.
Ricci Rivero unloaded 17 points on top of five boards and six assists in full 40 minutes of action for the Green Archers.
Jerick Balanza finished with 22 points while Bong Quinto and John Calvo added 14 points apiece for the Knights, who ended their preseason campaign with a dismal 1-7 card.
Letran forced four deadlocks in the second period but La Salle went on a searing 13-0 run to close the first half at 45-32.
The reigning University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) titlists broke away in the third frame as they built a 19-point lead highlighted by Mbala’s breakaway slam.
Mbala scored an easy basket to give the Taft-based cagers a commanding 22-point cushion early in the payoff period.
The Knights cut the deficit to 12, 71-83, on Calvo’s triple halfway the fourth quarter but the Green Archers kept them at bay down the stretch.
Meanwhile, San Beda College completed a sweep of the elimination round with an 82-67 clobbering of Ateneo de Manila University.
Besides formalizing their entry to the quarterfinals with their eighth win in as many games, the Red Lions booted out Ateneo while giving its rival La Salle a way to the playoffs.
Robert Bolick carried the defending NCAA champs with his 27-point explosion on 8-of-12 shooting from the field.
Raffy Verano scored 12 points for the Blue Eagles, who wound up with a 4-4 slate after squandering the chance to play in the next round when they lost to University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in their previous outing.
In the juniors division, National University (4-1) secured a Final Four seat as it eliminated San Beda (2-3), 103-97, while Lyceum of the Philippines University (3-2) spoiled the first round run of playoff-bound Ateneo de Manila University (4-1) with a 106-97 victory.
JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA