When its Ateneo and La Salle playing against each other, there’s always pride on the line

By Nicole Ganglani | Photos courtesy of UAAP

The rivalry between the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles and the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers is one ofif not the greatestrivalries in Philippine sports. Because of the rivalry’s rich tradition, each game between the two teams finds both fans and non-fans of the game eagerly awaiting game day.

In the past three years, the Blue Eagles have won six out of their eight battles against the Green Archers. This, among many things, is a reflection of how Ateneo has been the more superior team for the past two years now. And, again, this was evident in the two teams’ first encounter this season at the Araneta Coliseum.

Ateneo entered the game ready to take charge at their own pace. The moment Gian Mamuyac caught the ball right after Angelo Kouame tip the jump ball, the Blue Eagles made one right play after another. Their ability to play the system so precisely is the reason why they’ve ruled this tournament for the past two years: The extra passes, offensive rebounds, timely cuts, and swaps seemed as graceful and effortless as ever.

Yun lang talaga yung system namin kasi yung system namin is wala naman talagang star player sa team namin. Tinuturo lang naman sa amin ni coach Tab na we should take the shots that our system gives us, says Mamuyac

As for La Salle, the team that’s been finding its championship identity for some time now, things were looking good. The effects of new development consultant and assistant coach Jermain Byrd’s stint were in full swing as soon as the game started. In their first possession, the Archers already looked way better than they did last season. Aljun Melecio and Andrei Caracut looked sharper, Encho Serrano provided a ton of scoring, and Justin Baltazar and Joaqui Manuel showed why they’re key players in this roster.

And there was also Jaime Malonzo, who introduced himself to the UAAP with one of the most spectacular yet controversial dunks in history. Malonzo, who garnered the attention of the whole arena early in the game, led the Archers throughout the match with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

The current Green Archers team looked like they had the potential to at least make it to the final four this year. But the bottom line is that this Ateneo team is just near-invincible. They had so much poise it seemed they could make one right play after another. Thirdy Ravena, Matt Nieto, Angelo Kouame, Mike Nieto, Mamuyac, and the rest of the roster can almost always outdo—and that’s what they did against this new-look Green Archers team.

The Blue Eagles won their first matchup against their rivals despite just shooting 32 percent from the field. They shot five out of 32 from three but seemed to be in control of the lead throughout the game. Ravena may have not shined the brightest but Kouame’s dominant presence on both sides of the court, and the Nieto brothers’ and Mamuyac’s heroics down the stretch led the way for the Eagles.

Meanwhile, La Salle shot 31 percent from the field and had seven more turnovers than the Blue Eagles. They attacked the game with their own speed and grit but by the second quarter, they simply couldn’t keep up with the bigger and more powerful Ateneo team.

Here are some of the game’s highlights:

Jaime Malonzo Throws It Down on Thirdy Ravena

The dunk that had almost everyone in the La Salle crowd out of their seats. This dunk brought back memories of Ben Mbala and the true identity of La Salle basketball—talent and a proud style of play.

But Ravena, who embodied true sportsmanship and professionalism throughout the game, had the last laugh during post game: 

“It’s a play. Two points. We won the game,” says Ravena.

Gian Mamuyac Comes up Big

La Salle managed to cut Ateneo’s lead down to seven in the fourth quarter but Mamuyac made sure to put a stop to it. Mamuyac scored three crucial buckets to help Ateneo end the game strong. The third-year guard scored eight out of his career-high 14 points in the last quarter.

“Siguro tinake ko lang yung shots na binibigay ng offense namin. Medyo open shots naman lahat ng tinake ko, so buti na lang shumu-shoot, said Mamuyac. Pero yun lang talaga yung system namin kasi yung system namin is wala naman talagang star player sa team namin. Tinuturo lang naman sa amin ni coach Tab na we should take the shots that our system gives us,” added Mamuyac.

Mike Nieto’s Career Game

Nieto had one of the best games in his UAAP career after tallying 18 points along with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Meanwhile, his twin brother Matt tallied 15 points and 3 rebounds.

There’s Hope for La Salle

Aside from Malonzo, the Archers’ scoring came from Justin Baltazar who had 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Caracut who shot 3-of-6 from three-point area for 14 points.

When Ateneo and La Salle are playing against each other, there’s always pride on the line. Each game isn’t just about who has the better record or players but also which school gets the last laugh after every match. This time (and once again), Ateneo reigns supreme over their arch rivals.

The Eagles will take on their biggest challenge yet as they go up against the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers while the Green Archers will face the National University Bulldogs on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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