La Salle notches 8th straight win on Aldin Ayo’s return

Powerhouse La Salle was made to sweat by a stubborn Adamson side on Sunday night before pulling off an 86-79 victory to remain unbeaten in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Green Archers controlled majority of the way and virtually had a field day on the offensive end but still needed to overcome the Soaring Falcons’ searing fightback sparked by prized rookie Jerrick Ahanmisi for their eighth straight win, giving coach Aldin Ayo a triumphant return from a one-game suspension.

“Close game,” said Ayo, heaving a big sigh of relief after seeing his wards nearly blew a 17-point lead that they enjoyed midway in the third canto.

“‘Yung mga ganung klase ng laro, gusto namin ipasok pagiging spontaneous ng mga bata. Just go with flow. Good thing they responded and kept on playing.”

Adamson dropped to an even 4-4 mark, still in a three-way tie with Ateneo and National U.

Prized import Ben Mbala, the runaway leader in the MVP race, struggled against the Soaring Falcons but still sustained his consistent double-double showing performance of 18 points and 10 rebounds on top of four blocks, two steals and as many assists while getting ample lift from the other Green Archers.

Ricci Rivero dished out an all-around performance of 14 points, five rebounds, as many assists and two steals while fellow rookie Aljun Melecio came through with 11 markers but it was veteran guard Kib Montalbo came through with a timely three-pointer that restored order for La Salle in the crunch.

With Ahanmisi firing away 11 of his game-high 27 points in the final frame, the Soaring Falcons gave the Green Archers all they could handle and pull the closest at 79-81 with 1:26 left to play.

But Montalbo responded to the challenge as he nailed a clutch triple off a feed from Rivero, giving the momentum back to La Salle for good with 46.7 seconds to play.

The Green Archers also completed a season-sweep of the Soaring Falcons, handled by former La Salle mentor Franz Pumaren, having scored a 91-75 in their first-round meeting last Sept. 24. – By Jerome Lagunzad

The scores:

DLSU (86) – Mbala 18, Rivero 14, Melecio 11, Torres 9, Montalbo 8, Tratter 7, Perkins 5, Caracut 4, Baltazar 4, Paraiso 2, Dyke 2, Sargent 2, Go 0
ADAMSON (79) – Ahanmisi 27, Sarr 13, Manganti 12, Espeleta 9, Bernardo 6, Manalang 3, Ochea 3, Mustre 3, Ng 3, Paranada 0, Camacho 0, Pasturan 0, Ballon 0, Tungcab 0, Barrera 0, Chua 0
Quarterscores: 17-19, 44-33, 66-55, 86-79.