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La Salle still working on team chemistry – Ayo

By Jerome lagunzad

Games Tomorrow
(Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. – UST vs FEU
4 p.m. – La Salle vs UP

Having reigning league MVP Ben Mbala back in its fold is a welcome development for defending champion La Salle.

Putting their acts together, however, remains as the Green Archers’ immediate task.

Despite a familiar start in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament, La Salle coach Aldin Ayo is convinced the Green Archers’ chemistry and cohesiveness remain a work in progress following the return of the 6-foot-7 Mbala.

MBALA copy copy

The do-it-all Cameroonian spelled the big difference on Wednesday night when he torched Adamson with 32 points on top of 10 rebounds, four blocks and a steal, leading La Salle to an 85-73 victory over Adamson and a share of the lead with archrival Ateneo.

But the Green Archers’ latest performance wasn’t as impressive compared to their first two victories since they labored in the second half against the Soaring Falcons who tried their best to dug themselves out from a hole as deep as 24 points in the opening frame.

“We had a good first half but I feel like we’re kinda sluggish and we didn’t stick to the game plan. We were not able to execute during the third and almost all of the fourth quarter,” admitted Mbala, an observation echoed by Ayo.

“The players thought that after the first half, tapos na ‘yung laro. Kaya noong second half, lumabas ‘yung pagiging bata ng team namin. So ‘yung immaturity, ‘yung tendency na kapag lamang na, nagkakanya-kanya na.”

While Mbala picked up from where he left off following his productive showing for Cameroon in the AfroBasket tilt, La Salle’s top locals, notably spitfire guard Aljun Melecio, struggled to get their usual rhythm going against Adamson’s defensive pressure.

The 5-foot-7 Melecio, who averaged a team-high 24.5 points on top of 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals in their first two matches, groped for form as he could only tally two points on a woeful 1-of-7 shooting clip and even turned the ball over three times.

He visibly made the biggest adjustment following Mbala’s arrival, but Melecio took it in stride, saying: “Siya talaga ‘yung strength ng team namin so pink-feed lang namin siya.

“‘Yung responsibility ko naman, nandoon pa rin. Lesser lang ‘yung (offensive) load kasi Ben is already there and we all know that he’s the strength of our team. We’re just playing the game and get as much wins as we can.”

The Green Archers will have little trouble – if any – to realize that as long as they can be on the same page that Ayo longs to see. “It’s just a matter of putting things together and working on it,” he said.

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