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Archers go for the kill

Games Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
11 a.m. – La Salle vs NU (w)
2 p.m. – Awarding Ceremonies
4 p.m. – Ateneo vs La Salle (m)

Blue Eagles fight for survival.

Coach Aldin Ayo has given the La Salle Green Archers a new challenge as they aim to finish off the Ateneo Blue Eagles and win the UAAP championship in Game 2 of their best-of-three series today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Green Archers displayed better ball movement, stingy defense and poise under pressure in nailing a 67-65 victory in the opener last Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena, But Ayo said there are still minor kinks that needed to be fixed before the 4 p.m. duel.

After praising his players for veering away from the bad habits that marred La Salle’s inconsistent performance late in the elimination round and in the Final Four win over Adamson, Ayo said that he needs at least another player who can provide support for his three most reliable players – Ben Mbala, Jeron Teng and Kib Montalbo.

“May mga players pa rin na nawawala,” Ayo admitted. “Kailangan ko ng isa o tatlong players na maglaro lang ng usual nila para mairaos ulit namin itong Game 2, so total effort talaga ang kailangan and I’m expecting the 15 guys (on the team) to perform.”

La Salle led 16-2 at the start, then survived losing that lead late in the fourth quarter when Teng came through with the layup and a block on Aaron Black to seal the victory.

If Game 1 was hard, the Green Archers tactician is bracing for a harder Game 2 against a Blue Eagles side fighting for survival.

“Sino yung pinaka-team, sino yung pinakabuo, sino mas mag-eexecute, yun ang mananalo,” Ayo said. “Labanan ito ng coach, labanan to kung anu yung adjustments na gagawin, at kung sino yung makaka-execute ng game plan, tingin ko yun yung may malaking chance na manalo.”

Ateneo players felt that it let a big opportunity slip away after taking a 65-64 lead on Matt Nieto’s basket off a foul with 34 seconds left. The Blue Eagles retained possession after Nieto’s missed free throw, but Thirdy Ravena was stripped by Montalbo, leading to Teng’s heroics.

Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin is hoping that his team that overachieved so much can defy the odds anew as they return to the place where they handed the Green Archers their only defeat of the season – an 83-71 triumph last Nov. 5.

Baldwin wants his players to do a better job against Ayo’s trademark “Mayhem,” which applies full-court pressure on the opposing side.

“If you noticed in the second half, (La Salle) didn’t press very much and that will come back, we will see that again, for sure,” Baldwin said. “We have to take care of the ball, be better organized against the pressure, and we will, there’s no doubt in my mind that we will.

“So again, it’s gonna come down on who can play better basketball. The gimmicks, the tricks and all of that, that will go out of the window as it did in the second half,” he added.