Sizzling Archers turn back Blue Eagles, boost bid for semis bonus

Ralph Edwin Villanueva - Philstar.com
Sizzling Archers turn back Blue Eagles, boost bid for semis bonus
La Salle's Mike Phillips
Philstar.com / Martin Ramos

MANILA, Philippines – The La Salle Green Archers inched closer to a twice-to-beat semis advantage after squeaking past archrivals Ateneo Blue Eagles, 72-69, in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Saturday

In front of a crowd of 14,900, the Archers pulled away late and secured their eighth straight  victory. 

With Ateneo trailing by just two, 56-58, after a Kai Ballungay layup, Joshua David and Evan Nelle uncorked back-to-back treys to give La Salle a 64-56 lead with 5:05 remaining. 

But a Chris Koon layup broke the La Salle run. Kevin Quiambao’s layup was then ruled a goaltend as the Archers reclaimed the eight-point lead, 66-58. 

A Ballungay putback and a Joseph Obasa for Ateneo shot cut La Salle's lead to four, 66-62, once again. 

A Jared Brown trey with 2:05 remaining turned the game to a one-point affair, 65-66.

Nelle then sank a runner off a broken play to put the Archers ahead, 68-65, with 1:06 left.

On the other end, Brown missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game. 

Mike Phillips and Koon traded baskets with more than 30 seconds remaining. 

And with the shot clock winding down, Brown again missed a clean shot from beyond the arc. 

A pair of free throws by Nelle with 12.1 seconds remaining closed the door for Ateneo, 72-67. 

Following an Obasa deuce that led Ateneo to inch closer, Phillips missed both free throws. La Salle recovered the ball then missed a heave as well as time expired.

Quiambao finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block for La Salle, while Nelle, Phillips and Mark Nonoy chipped in 10 points apiece.

Obasa led Ateneo with 21 points and nine rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting.

The Taft-based cagers thus exacted payback against their Katipunan-based rivals as the former lost to the latter in the first-round matchup, 72-77. 

Despite winning their last elimination game, the Archers still not assured of the twice-to-beat advantage. 

They will still await the result of the match between UP and NU. 

The Blue Eagles, who secured at least a playoff for the Final Four spot, will have to wait and see if Adamson will defeat UE on Sunday. 

If the Falcons defeat the Red Warriors, Ateneo and Adamson will collide for the fourth and final semifinal spot.

La Salle now holds an 11-3 win-loss record, while Ateneo dropped to 7-7.

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