PLAYING defense will decide everything for the defending champion La Salle Green Archers.
Season MVP Ben Mbala said he and his teammates got this reminder from coach Aldin Ayo right before the Green Archers put away the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 92-83, in Game 2 of their best-of-three finals series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We did what coach asked us to do. Play D, play D. From there, it will decide everything,” said Mbala, who was held to eight points, but had 12 rebounds in the 31 minutes he played.
Mbala, just like Ricci Rivero, had four fouls in Game 2 with Ateneo’s defense focused on stopping him.
The 6’8” Cameroonian said this was not the first time that the Green Archers were able to come back from a big lead.
In the Final Four, the Green Archers fought their way out of a 15-point deficit to beat the Adamson Falcons, 82-75.
“As a team, we’ve been through almost the same situation against Adamson. So, I think we got used to games like this,” said Mbala after the Green Archers rallied their way back from a 21-point deficit against the Blue Eagles.
He feels that to win Game 3, for them to win Game 3 and the championship, the team must remember what to do defensively.
Doing so, Mbala said, will change things for La Salle.
“We stick together (in defense). We saw some of our players struggling. We did not give up. We kept playing D,” said Mbala.
Their game will be remembered for being the biggest comeback in 30 years.
No squad since 1987 has ever recovered from bigger deficit and win a game in the finals.
It finally happened in season 80 when the Blue Eagles squandered a 21-point lead, and bowed to the Green Archers, 92-83, in Game 2.
The series is now even at one-all after Ateneo took Game 1 with a 76-70 triumph.
The last time a team successfully came back from a 20-point or more deficit was in 1987.
That was when the Blue Eagles charged back from 20 points down in the second half to win their first ever title in the league with a 94-92 triumph over the University of the East Warriors.
At that time, free throw shots from Emilio Chuatico and Eric Reyes Jr. sealed the deal for the Blue Eagles.
Joseph “Jet” Nieto, the father of the twins Matthew and Mike, led a decisive run and spiked with a triple in the beginning of the last period.
And it was baskets from Gilbert Reyes Jr. and Nieto that brought the Blue Eagles closer, 92-86.
This time, the Green Archers are going for their second consecutive title in a Game 3 setting.
The last time the Green Archers won the crown after going the distance in Game 3 was in 2013 when La Salle beat University of Santo Tomas, 71-69, in overtime.