UP Maroon Paul Desiderio loses the ball as he tries to wriggle out of the defense of UST Tigers Regie Basibas (behind) and Jeepy Faundo in UAAP seniors basketball last night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Archers tame Tams sans Mbala; UP wins
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - September 10, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Even without Ben Mbala, defending champion La Salle showed it’s more than capable of getting the job done against a tough opponent like Far Eastern U.

Riding on the hot shooting of Aljun Melecio, Andrei Caracut and Kib Montalbo and the stepped-up plays of their big men, the Archers seized a big cushion then quelled the Tams’ late uprising en route to a 95-90 victory last night in UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tourney at the MOA Arena.

“It was a total team effort,” said DLSU coach Aldin Ayo after his wards bucked the absence of last year’s MVP Mbala to open their title retention campaign on a good note.

Melecio rifled in a career-high 29 points spiked by three triples, scoring 20 of them in the first half where DLSU led by as many as 23 markers, even as Caracut added 16 and Montalbo made four triples for 12. The trio bailed the Archers out of trouble with crucial free throws in the endgame.

“We’re spending one-and-a-half hours on shooting regularly in practices and it paid off today,” said Ayo, whose team defeated FEU a few weeks after their fight-marred game in Davao.

Ayo also gave credit to Abu Tratter (11 points, 10 rebounds) and other frontliners Prince Rivero, Santi Santillan and Justine Baltazar for filling in for Mbala, who’s currently on national team duties for Cameroon.

“Abu played well, he filled in Ben’s spot; actually our four bigs contributed and gave us quality minutes,” he said.

Meanwhile, showing steely nerves in the clutch, Paul Desiderio hit a  booming triple with 1.4 seconds left to lift University of the Philippines to a pulsating 74-73 squeaker over University of Santo Tomas.

Boldly promising during the pre-play huddle that UP would nail the shot and win the game, Desiderio made good on his word and confidently stroked the winner in from beyond the arc as the Maroons salvaged the close victory after squandering an 11-point lead.

Siguro sa dami ng tinira ko, mahihiya pa ba ako eh last second shot na? Sabi naman ni coach Bo pag open itira na so tumira ako, buti pumasok (I took a lot of shots already so why shy away from taking the last second shot. And the instruction was take the shot if you’re open so I did and luckily it went in),” said Desiderio, who shot 6-of-20 from the field and two-of-11 from three-point territory.

After seizing a 47-36 margin, the Maroons nearly blew it all as they allowed the Tigers to get back and even take a 73-71 lead on Marvin Lee’s freebies with 5.3 ticks left.

“UST is a very tough team, there are those who don’t give them much chance but playing against them, I can say they can give anybody a run for their money, if opponents won’t take UST seriously, they’re going to play for it,” said UP coach Bo Perasol.

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