No Ben Mbala, no problem for De La Salle
The defending champion La Salle Green Archers found a way to get past the Far Eastern University Tamaraws even without big man Benoit Mbala around.
Backup slotman Abu Tratter took charge underneath, and so did teammates Prince Rivero and Justine Baltazar.
With the three around, the Green Archers started strong as they held their ground in the final period to put away the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 95-90, on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
This gave the Green Archers their first win in the start of their campaign in the 90th University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.
The 6’8 Mbala will miss two games after he joined the Cameroonian national team in the Afro-basketball tournaments back home.
“We just played our game. It was a total team effort. I told the boys to prioritize on defense,” said Green Archers coach Aldin Ayo.
La Salle still went on to outrebound FEU, 49-40.
Aljun Melecio struck with a game-high 29 points, including three triples for the Green Archers.
He strung up three charities and two of his three triples in the last 2:42.
His baskets came during a decisive 22-2 blast that handed La Salle 25-8 advantage in the first period.
Andrei Caracut added 16 points, with his trey in the remaining 9:14 of the first canto giving the Green Archers their first taste of the lead, 3-2.
Kib Montalbo hit 12 points, with his trey in the last 4:03 of the third handing La Salle a 61-44 spread.
Tratter made 11 points and 10 rebounds for La Salle, with his freebies keeping La Salle ahead 66-47, in the final two minutes of the third.
Ron Dennison scored 21 points for FEU, and he banged in seven as FEU managed to come back to within five in the final canto.
Dennison’s triple allowed FEU to threaten, 90-95, in the last two minutes.
La Salle then hung on to the lead off charities from Andrei Caracut and Melecio.