MANILA, Philippines – An injured star player and a suspended head coach would usually mean trouble for a basketball team.
Apparently not for De La Salle.
Following the game, top-scorer Ben Mbala and fifth-year veteran Thomas Torres said the one-sided win was dedicated to the two key people missing from the team.
"I can also say that we did it for coach, because he wasn't there. He had our backs in the last game but he got ejected. We really have to give it to him," said Mbala.
Ayo was suspended after getting ejected late in the second quarter of his team's win against UE last Wednesday, September 28. The first-year La Salle head coach, unhappy with a non-call on what looked like a foul, got the eyeglasses of one of his assistant coaches and tried to put it on a game referee.
Ayo was ejected right after. Under UAAP rules, a player or coach ejected is automatically suspended from his team's next game. La Salle appealed to have the suspension lifted, but it was denied.
"Especially [because] Coach Aldin was out – our head coach – and Jeron – our captain – we just wanted to play with more intensity. Siyempre (Of course), Ateneo, that's Ateneo. We all know 'pag (when it's) Ateneo-La Salle, parang (it's like) 0-0 'yung (the) standing all the time, so we just wanted to go out, play our A-game all the time, and execute all the time," said Torres.
"[It was dedicated] to the both of them. Siyempre (Of course), [also] to the Lasallian community."
Mbala finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting and also had 13 rebounds plus 5 steals. Torres accounted for 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. As a team, La Salle forced Ateneo to 30 turnovers, including 16 steals.
"I feel like we really played as a team and we were really able to stick to the game plan," said Mbala, who had 3 highlight slam dunks, the last from an alley-oop lob courtesy of Torres. "Without coach being there and without Jeron, it was like a test for us to show what we can do, even if we don't have our coach or our leader was not there.
"I'm really proud of the way the guys played. We always stick together," added the big man from Cameroon. – Rappler.com