Powerhouse La Salle survived one of its toughest tests yet in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tourney and returning coach Aldin Ayo couldn’t be any happier.
The Green Archers led by as many as 17 points in the third canto but still needed a clutch triple from Kib Montalbo and a couple of defensive plays in the stretch to hold off the Adamson U Soaring Falcons on Sunday night, 86-79, at the Mall of Asia Arena, extending their unbeaten to eight straight match.
Back from a one-game suspension which he served in La Salle’s impressive 97-81 over archrival Ateneo last weekend, Ayo heaved a big sigh of relief after seeing the Green Archers survive the Soaring Falcons and keep their winning streak going at the start of the second-round of play.
“Actually hindi ito ang pinakamahirap namin na laro. But that was close,” he said, adding La Salle’s 75-66 win over National U in their first-round meeting last Sept. 18 is by far their toughest test yet.
“‘Yung NU na ‘yun, third quarter we’re still guessing on what to do. But in this game, after the halftime, alam na namin ang dapat gawin. Although they kept on coming, may mga bagay rin kasi na hindi namin kontrolado.”
Although their repeat victory over the Soaring Falcons was far from a dominant showing that they’ve shown in a 91-75 win in their first-round meeting last Sept. 24, the Green Archers still got the job done despite missing the services of top local Jeron Teng for the second straight game.
“Of course we miss JT. But on those kind of situations, we can’t really go for kung sino man ang go-to-guy,” Ayo stressed.
“Gusto namin ipasok ang pagiging spontaneous ng mga bata. As much as possible, we allow them to play basketball. We allow them to make decisions. Just go with flow. Good thing they responded and kept on playing.”
Ayo added he’s also proud to see how the Green Archers play “responsible” in their emphatic win over the Blue Eagles inside the team’s dormitory near the Taft-based campus.
“Habang pinapanood mo, you become proud kasi even without you, those guys are performing,” he said. “Sabi ko sa kanila, you were left alone in your house and what are you going to do? Are you going to throw up a party because your parents are not there? Or are you going to do the dishes, clean the house and be responsible?”
“Good thing they were responsible on that kind of game and they’ve proven that they are really responsible individuals,” Ayo concluded. – By Jerome Lagunzad