Prized import Ben Mbala and star wingman Jeron Teng have been taking up the cudgels most of the time for powerhouse La Salle in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tourney, but that doesn’t mean they are not getting enough help from the other Green Archers.
La Salle’s first-year coach Aldin Ayo drew another superb performance from their shocktr oopers in their hard-earned 75-66 victory over title contender NU last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, stretching its unbeaten start to 4-0.
The 6-foot-2 Teng showed the way offensively anew with a game-high 23 points, while Mbala banged in his fourth straight double-double performance of 16 markers and a game-best 15 rebounds, underscoring their main roles as La Salle’s potent 1-2 punch.
Ayo, however, was left pleased again with how the less-heralded Archers delivered clutch buckets, notably rookie Ricci Rivero, big man Abu Tratter and veteran guard Kib Montalbo who all chipped in ample support during their 21-9 closeout.
Rivero, Tratter and Montalbo combined for just 17 points but 9 of them came during their decisive push that enabled them to pull away from the Bulldogs.
“All of them should deliver,” said Ayo, visibly pleased with how La Salle bench, thanks to mainly Teng’s scoring burst, outscored its NU counterparts 46-20.
“As I’ve said, they all have equal opportunities,” he added. “Kung makikita niyo sa practice, lahat pinagagawa namin. They really compete during the practice. At kung sino ang makakatulong during the game, sila ‘yung papasok. But we make sure all of the 15 guys are ready. Alam niyo rin naman kung anong mga players mayroon ako.”
Although they found their offensive groove just in time, Ayo admitted their desire to play lockdown defense did the trick anew.
“We executed our defense in the fourth,” he stressed. “We were physically and mentally ready for the grind of the game. Ganun naman palagi, ubusan. Survival of the fittest.”
Aside from dealing NU its first loss in three matches, La Salle also finally put one over the Bulldogs since dropping their first two meetings in the off-season.
“We’re expecting this kind of game. We know this will go down the wire. This is our first win against them for the whole season. But for us, coming to this game, medyo inspired kami,” he noted, adding the surprise visit of top patron Danding Cojuangco prior to the match gave the Archers a needed boost. — By Jerome Lagunzad