Norbert Torres had his arms raised skyward as he was defending Blue Eagle Nico Salva, who had the leather and was standing barely 13 feet from the basket. The latter tried spinning to his right to outmanoeuvre the six-foot-six Torres, but was blocked as he faded away for a jumper. The ball, however, was promptly picked up by Ryan Buenafe, who found himself all alone beneath the basket. Buenafe wasted no time putting back the leather through the hoop for two of his game-high 24 points.
That play perfectly encapsulated the second game between La Salle and Ateneo. The Green Archers staged more comebacks than a celebrity trying to get back into the limelight, but each time they chopped the lead of their rivals, they found their baskets answered by either Ryan Buenafe or Kiefer Ravena.
Buenafe scored 24 points as the Blue Eagles withstood the Green Archers, 67-77, in a battle of two streaking teams earlier today at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, which snapped their four-game winning run. The Archers, who have hitherto not dropped a contest since August 4, absorbed their fourth setback against six wins, allowing the idle NU Bulldogs to forge a tie with them at the fourth spot.
LA Revilla, who averaged 11 points and five caroms per contest in the first round, sat out his third straight game with a sprained left ankle, while Yutien Andrada, who had previously missed La Salle’s last two contests because of a foot injury, saw action and was fielded for 11 minutes and contributed four boards and a rejection.
Jeron Teng, who nailed a buzzer-beating game-winner against the UST Growling Tigers in their last outing, led the Archers with 22 points, although he bled for his points as he shot 6-of-21 from the field. But to his credit, the younger Teng managed to nail eight of his 12 free throws for a 67% clip from the charity stripe.
As a team, the Archers shot 34% from the field as compared to the 42% showing by the Blue Eagles, but managed to turn the rout into a humdinger of a contest by outrebounding and out-assisting the defending champions. With the Archers down by sixteen at the end of the first stanza, it was Almond Vosotros who allowed the Green and White to slowly claw their way back into the contest, pouring in 14 of his 20 markers in the second canto as La Salle narrowed the once-sizeable gap into a six point margin at the turn.
La Salle was also able to limit Ateneo to only nine points in the second canto, allowing them to eat into their lead. The insertion of Oda Tampus early in the third period enabled La Salle to trim the Ateneo lead down to a basket, 33-35, with 7:33 remaining But Buenafe, together with other Blue Eagles, was able to pad their lead to eight, 50-42, courtesy of a six-to-nothing blitz.
Teng poured in 12 of his 22 in the final canto to try to snatch the win from the Blue Eagles, and two of his free throws were able to bring the Archers to within seven, 63-70, with a little more than two minutes remaining, but an and-one play by Salva all but sealed the win for the Eagles.
Despite the loss, however, there are lots of positives that could be salvaged in the contest for the Green Archers.
For one, Ateneo’s physically-imposing big man Greg Slaughter groped for form as he mustered only five points in 36 minutes. Slaughter had been averaging nearly 14 points a game entering the contest.
Another one came in the form of Archer Oda Tampus, who had previously averaged six minutes and two points per game but came off the pine to drop eight points on an impeccable 4-of-4 shooting in only 15 minutes of action.
And finally, the charity stripe proved to be an ally instead of a foe for La Salle in the match, as they nailed 15 of their 21 attempts from fifteen feet for a commendable 71% showing.
The Next Game: The Green Archers will be trying to remove the stigma of this loss against the Blue Eagles this Thursday, September 6, when they lock horns with the UP Fighting Maroons at the MOA Arena. Game time is at 4 .pm.
Notes: Before the start of the match, a moment of silence was given by both schools to honor the late former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, who perished in a plane crash last August 18; including today’s game, the Archers have lost 11 of their last 12 meetings against their arch-rivals, dating back to the 2008 season.
AdMU-77-Buenafe-24, Ravena-18, Salva-12, Tiongson-10, Slaughter-4, Chua-4, Sumalinog-3, Gonzaga-2, Elorde-0, Golla-0
DLSU-67-Teng-22, Vosotros-20, Van Opstal-8, Tampus-8, Torres, N.-4, Manguera-3, Mendoza-2, Andrada-0, Paredes-0, Torres, T.-0, Tallo-0, Webb-0
Quarterscores: 26-10, 35-29, 57-46, 77-67