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Torralba’s clutch triple lifts La Salle over Ateneo in squeaker

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In a classic rivalry game, the marquee stars were on full display as Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng exchanged baskets and defended each other hard on the other end. But it was transferee Joshua Torralba whose star shined the brightest in hitting a clutch three-pointer to lift the De La Salle University Green Archers past the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, 80-76, Sunday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

La Salle tweaked its starting lineup by inserting Smart Elite Ambassador Prince Rivero as its center. The second year big man made his presence felt early with six points in the opening frame but they were facing a high-octane offense ran by the Katipunan-based crew. The Blue Eagles led the entire opening quarter which was highlighted by a Kiefer Ravena two-handed jam that gave his squad an 18-11 edge.

The cagers from Taft had a hard time containing their fouls especially in Ateneo’s transition game as they entered the penalty situation early in the first and gave 12 attempts from the foul stripe to the Eagles. As they ended the first period up by a dozen, the Blue Eagles relied on good ball movement to sustain the lead and pile up the number of assists. La Salle had a hard time barging into the 10-point barrier as free throw woes with eight misses after 20 minutes.

At the half, Ateneo already marked 15 assists on their 16 field goal attempts while shooting 70% inside downtown. After the break however, La Salle made a huge wave of a run anchored by back-to-back triples by Thomas Torres and Joshua Torralba. This opened up a big shift momentum-wise as the relatively small lineup by the Archers were able to dictate the pace of the game with their rally.

A total team effort for La Salle enabled them to claw back and take the lead during the second half with Jason Perkins sinking in back-to-back threes during the stretch and Thomas Torres overcoming his poor start to the season to regain his confidence in being the team’s main guy at the point. However, Ateneo would be able to recapture the lead with Arvin Tolentino and Chibueze Ikeh contributing to make it a 61-56 game. La Salle responded with a 5-0 spurt to tie things up entering the final quarter of play.

Back-and-forth were the two teams offensive-wise as an early 69-65 edge by Ateneo was erased by Torres’ play on the other end. Fast forward to the dying minutes, Ravena and Jeron Teng took charge but no team was able to pull away. With 1:37 left in the game and tied at 74, Ikeh scored off a dish from Jerie Pingoy off a timeout. Afterwards, La Salle set up a four-men play at the top of the key which led to a wide-open corner triple for the rookie Torralba, who drained in the lead-giving three back to La Salle.

Two more free throws by Teng extended the Green Archers’ lead. Kiefer Ravena would then muff a tightly contested three from straight on that led to another free throw for Torralba en route to the win.

“It was a hard time. Very tough game for both teams,” Juno Sauler said after the game. Moreover, he complimented the defense done by his wards as the team made sacrifices to play hard on defense. “The players are putting their team above on the defensive end.”

On Joshua Torralba’s clutch three-pointer, the proud mentor was proud of his student as he has seen him work hard on it during practices. “He’s been working on the three during practices.” Torralba though disclosed that he was frustrated with the game before making the big shot. “I was frustrated with the game. I give it all to God because he gave me guidance.”

Finally, with regards to the Teng’s crucial defense on Ravena. Teng said that he knew Kiefer will take the three. “I knew that he will take a three, but I needed to work hard to challenge that shot.”

Jeron Teng topscored for the Archers with 18 points on 6/15 shooting from the field. He added six boards and five dimes. Thomas Torres also had an excellent outing with 15 markers, nine coming from the second half. Finally, Smart Elite ambassador Prince Rivero notched a double-double with ten points and ten boards.

For the Blue Eagles, Kiefer Ravena scored 19 points but was a terrible 7/24 from the field. He was 0/6 from downtown and was just5 5/9 from the charity stripe. Ateneo’s other Smart Elite ambassador Von Pessumal also had a horrid shooting day in shooting just 27% from the field for 10 markers. Chibueze Ikeh grabbed a double-double also with 13 points and 13 boards.

Both teams finished the first round with a 4-3 slate.

The Scores:

DLSU (80) – Teng 18, Torres 15, Perkins 13, Rivero 10, Torralba 9, Caracut 6, Tratter 4, Navarro 3, Muyang 2, Sargent 0

ADMU (76) – Ravena 19, Ikeh 13, Capacio 10, Gotladera 8, Pessumal 8, Tolentino 7, Pingoy 6, Apacible 2, Babilonia 2, Nieto Ma. 1, Cani 0

Quarters: 13-25, 36-46, 61-61, 80-76.

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