MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles denied rivals La Salle Green Archers a late comeback rally to finish with an 81-69 win in their first UAAP Season 82 men's basketball showdown at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, September 8.
After being down by as many as 22 points at halftime, the new-look Archers shot all the way back within single-digit after a 10-1 run midway through the 4th, 62-71.
However, defensive stopper Gian Mamuyac showed off his offensive chops with two straight buckets to regain an 11-point lead, 75-66, with just over 3 minutes left.
Although La Salle veteran Andrei Caracut sank a clutch trey to inch within 8, 67-75, Mamuyac answered right back to go back up 10, 77-67, in the last two minutes.
Mamuyac then shut the door on the Archers' comeback efforts with one last putback in the last 59 ticks to maintain a double-digit lead, 79-69. All in all, the third-year guard scored 8 of his career-high 14 points in the final quarter.
The Nieto twins paced the Blue Eagles with Mike dropping 18 points on top of 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, and Matt also collecting 15 points and 3 boards.
Ivorian center Ange Kouame, who did the dirty work to finish with 19 rebounds and 5 blocks, also helped the defending champions grab a share of the early lead at 2-0.
"This is a typical Ateneo-La Salle game. It was tough every step of the way," said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin after the Blue Eagles joined the UST Tigers on top.
Both teams went back-and-forth in the opening frame with La Salle showing off their new one-and-done trio of Jamie Malonzo, Keyshawn Meeker and James Pado.
However, the two-time defending champions quickly turned the contest into a two-way clinic as they buried the Archers with a 21-1 run to end the half, 51-29.
"I think that break we had at the end of the 2nd quarter was a surprise to us and it was a surprise for them, and in the end, it was the cushion I think that we depended on in the second half," said Baldwin.
Malonzo – who put on an early show with a throwdown slam over Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena – led the Archers with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Andrei Caracut added 14 points on a 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range, while Justine Baltazar tallied 10 points, 12 rebounds and a couple of blocks.
Ateneo 81 – Nieto Mi 18, Nieto Ma 15, Mamuyac 14, Navarro 8, Andrade 6, Kouame 6, Ravena 6, Tio 4, Belangel 2, Go 2, Daves 0, Maagdenberg 0.
La Salle 69 – Malonzo 18, Caracut 14, Baltazar 10, Serrano 8, Melecio 7, Lojera 6, Manuel 6, Bartlett 0, Bates 0, Cagulangan 0, Cu 0, Hill 0, Meeker 0, Pado 0.
Quarters: 23-21, 51-29, 66-50, 81-69.