- News in Photo
By JONAS TERRADO
Since everyone has plenty of time browsing through their social media apps, it would be easy to check the video of Ben Mbala providing the play that symbolized how the La Salle Green Archers gave the archrival Ateneo Blue Eagles an old-fashion beating.
The play came with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Green Archers, with the mayhem defense, forced a Blue Eagle turnover, prompting a two-on-one fastbreak featuring Mbala and Thomas Torres.
From there, everyone knew what was going to happen. Torres threw a lob pass for Mbala, who was like Superman or LeBron James when he jumped into the air before throwing down a thunderous one-handed dunk that made the Mall of Asia Arena into a madhouse.
The dunk, the best of a series of slams made by the Cameroonian import, highlighted a rivalry game that turned into a battle of men against boys, as the Green Archers eventually cruised to a 97-81 win that gave the school a first round sweep for the first time since 2002.
“I was lucky enough that my teammates told me to run the floor and throw it up,” Mbala said on the dunk that became a discussion of everyone who watched the game and a trending subject on social media.
It may be Mbala’s best game in a Green Archers uniform, he had 28 points and 15 rebounds. But the manner of how the team responded without suspended coach Aldin Ayo and injured star Jeron Teng was even more impressive.
Guard Kib Montalbo was once again a do-it-all player on both ends, Andrei Caracut hit 11 of 14 points in the second quarter that set the stage for the rout. Even the seldom-used Jason Perkins played the “Magic Bunot” role in the same period after spending most of the first round either injured or riding on the bench.
“Without coach being there and Jeron, it’s a test for us to show what we can do,” said Mbala. “I’m really proud of how the guys played as we stuck together. We did it for coach. He isn’t there but he had our backs the last game.”
The rout also made the job easier for assistant coach Louie Gonzales, tasked to handle the chores in Ayo’s absence.
While relatively unknown, Gonzales was an assistant coach of Louie Alas and Binky Favis when Ayo became a member of the Letran Knights’ NCAA championship teams in 1998 and 1999.
Gonzales attributed Ayo’s playing style to the system that has changed the culture of the Green Archers.
“Kung ano yung nakikita niyo sa mga players namin, ‘yun si Aldin,” said Gonzales.