LA Salle showed up ready to rumble yesterday but was simply outgunned by arch-rival Ateneo, which kept its winning run going to realize a lofty goal.
The Blue Eagles turned back the Green Archers anew 77-69 for their 10th straight win and clinched a Final Four slot and at least a Top 2 finish in the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Veteran guard Adrian Wong scattered a game-high 18 points anchored on 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc while do-it-all forward Thirdy Ravena chipped in 13 markers and seven rebounds.
Six-foot-10 Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast also added a double-double of 10 points and 14 boards as the Eagles remained perfect with a 10-0 card and 20-0 overall dating back to last season.
Ateneo also thumped the Archers 81-69 when they first met last Sept. 4.
The victory, pulled off in front of 11,239 fans, served as a fitting follow-up to the Eagles’ 80-74 triumph over Adamson University last Oct. 9.
In the other game, Far Eastern University prevailed over a suddenly-misfiring University of Santo Tomas 72-58 to gain a share of third and get back on track.
Speedy playmaker L-Jay Gonzales led the Tamaraws with 17 points and six rebounds while Royce Alforque had 16 markers, four boards, and six assists.
Alec Stockton also had 10 points for FEU, which improved to 5-5 in a tie with the Growling Tigers.
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin gave credit to the Archers for giving his wards fits and Wong for stepping up.
“We hang on. I think we can play better, but we gotta give credit to La Salle. That was a good game of basketball. In the first half, we looked more nervous than La Salle did. I thought they looked very composed and sure of themselves in understanding what they wanted to do,” said Baldwin.
“I think if Adrian (Wong) doesn’t come out hot, we’re in trouble in the first half.
Fortunately, he did, and it’s another example of somebody in the roster stepping up and having a good game when it was needed,” he added.
The Katipunan-based Eagles took a 36-30 lead at the half and still held a 55-50 advantage going into the payoff period.
A Justine Baltazar jumper pulled the Archers to within 55-61 at the 7:13 mark of the fourth.
Ateneo leaned on a crippling 10-3 blitz capped by a Wong triple that gave the Eagles their biggest lead and made it a 71-58 game with 2:01 remaining.
La Salle last threatened at 67-73 on a Brandon Bates basket, only 29.8 ticks left.