By Aljo Dolores
Ateneo Blue Eagles def. De La Salle Green Archers 77-69
Adrian Wong, Ateneo (18 points, 4/7 3P)
The Ateneo-La Salle rivalry has been the UAAP’s version of Royal Rumble for so long now. All warriors are expected to throw haymakers against each other in a heated match within the four corners of the court. Well, Adrian Wong certainly got the memo. The shooter came out with a steel chair in hand as he let hell break loose against La Salle. In his best game as a Blue Eagle thus far, Wong led all scorers while providing the necessary lift for his team that struggled from deep. He sank four triples, which accounted for half of Ateneo’s three-point conversions. Talk about “next man up”.
Encho Serrano, DLSU (15 points, eight rebounds)
In one of the most highly anticipated games in the UAAP, Encho Serrano came out to prove why he’s one of the best recruits from a year back. He made the most out of his 21 minutes as he played aggressively on the offensive end. He led DLSU in scoring while also helping on the boards.
Ange Kouame, Ateneo (10 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks)
It’s such a luxury for Ateneo to have a human cheat code like Ange Kouame in the lineup. The second-year FSA is a one-man wrecking crew on the paint. He grabbed game-high 14 rebounds, including eight offensive boards to give Ateneo another crack on their side of the court. Those second chances came in handy for Ateneo since they struggled on their shooting (34.2%).
- Ateneo continues to be the league’s inevitable, thanks to their airtight defense. They forced the Green Archers to commit 17 turnovers in the game, which resulted in 17 points for the Blue Eagles. The defending champions also continued their block party as swatted the ball away six times. No wonder La Salle was limited to just 22 points in the paint, as opposed to Ateneo’s 36.
- It’s quite noticeable though how their dominance is slowly dwindling as the elimination round goes on. La Salle is the third team in the second round to get uncomfortably close to the defending champs before they finally broke out. Failing to get out of their shooting slump from deep yet certainly didn’t help Ateneo’s cause. In this game alone, they shot an underwhelming 25.8 percent from deep, which could have been worse if not for Wong’s breakout performance. If they want to continue being the UAAP’s inevitable, then they should do better from beyond the arc sooner than later.
- After a jittery start, La Salle is slowly becoming a team to watch out for in Season 82. It seems like Coach Jermaine Byrd’s squad is starting to learn how to coexist on the court. Despite a subpar shooting game, five Archers still managed to score in double figures, thanks in part to La Salle’s 15 assists. They also outrebounded the defending champions, 52-48, despite facing one of the best rebounders in the league in Ange Kouame.
- Perhaps, La Salle’s improving cohesion was best shown on the defensive end, where they disrupted the flow of Ateneo’s offense. The Eagles were limited to only 13 assists, three less than their first-round average. Even with the loss, all signs point to La Salle peaking at the right time in the tournament.