Ateneo Blue Eagles def. DLSU Green Archers, 71-62
Thirdy Ravena, Ateneo (14 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks)
The do-it-all forward came off the bench and was all over the place during the game. He unveiled a different shooting form against the Green Archers, one with less hinge and a little more flow to it. He was also instrumental in containing one of La Salle’s towers Taane Samuel, tallying two blocks against him as a help defender. Expect him to elevate his style of play once the postseason begins.
Ange Kouame, Ateneo (11 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block)
The Green Archers had no answer for the Ivorian big man, as he imposed his will under the basket grabbing rebounds and converting on short stabs. Kouame may have been in foul trouble early in the game, but he was effective when he was on the floor.
William Navarro, Ateneo (7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 offensive rebounds)
Will deserves every bit of love he got today. He played extended minutes out of necessity, as Ange Kouame, Isaac Go, and Raffy Verano were in foul trouble early in the game. The transferee forward from San Beda played as center, effectively bodying up Baltazar and made his life harder in the paint and forced him to extend to the elbow. He may not have scored that much, but did his job to the hilt, and that deserves some praise.
Aljun Melecio, DLSU (13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists)
Melecio got his numbers, but really had to bleed for them. The Ateneo defense was focused on him, suffocating him both on-ball and off it. He could have scored more points (and the game would be closer) had he made more free throws (3/9 FT).
Justine Baltazar, DLSU (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists)
The leading candidate for Most Improved player had an efficient outing in the paint, shooting 5/9, good for a 56% clip. However, he laid an egg out of two attempts from the three point line, a skill he should develop. The Blue Eagles knew to push him off the paint and sag off on him on defense, and if he develops a respectable three point shot, an MVP in the seniors division is not far off.
- Ateneo experimented with their rotation patterns, and this was interesting, to say the least. The chaos had its method, however. It was to throw La Salle off, as they likely prepared for a different strategy based on the Blue Eagles’ previous games. It was also to preserve the usual starters, as they were in for a highly physical, grind-out game.
- La Salle also had a surprise of their own, letting rookie big man Taane Samuel play. He was, however, feeling the effects of his long layoff. He was a step slower, even if he could handle the ball well. This also allowed the Ateneo big men to play great defense on him.
- La Salle had an all-new dimension on their offense with the return of Samuel. It was against Ateneo in the first round that they started using Baltazar and Bates together, which gave Ateneo’s frontline some trouble. The Green Archers threw combinations of Baltazar, Bates, and Samuel on the floor, to which Ateneo had answers to. When Bates was playing, Isaac Go was inserted for size. When Baltazar was on the floor, William Navarro was used to negate the agility the La Salle big man possesses.
- The lineup experiment by Ateneo was a double-edged sword. It initially hit them, as La Salle jumped out to a lead thanks to the shaky offense of the Blue Eagles. But after a while, Ateneo adjusted and found their bearings despite playing small during the second quarter. Patience is a virtue after all.
- This was the type of game the rivalry needed. Physical and in-your-face on and off the court. This spices up a rivalry that has dwindled down after Game 3 of the finals last season. May this be a trend of the Ateneo-La Salle matchup moving forward.