By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
EXPECTING a tough challenge from defending champions and rivals Ateneo Blue Eagles in their first University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 81 clash this weekend, the De La Salle Green Archers are aiming to come in prepared to get a favorable result.
Happening at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 4 p.m., the Archers (3-2) look to get the early upper hand in their two-game rivalry series in the elimination round with the Eagles (4-1) while also putting themselves in better position in the standings heading into the midway point of the tournament.
La Salle coach Louie Gonzalez said they are going to prepare hard to give Ateneo a good fight, knowing how significant the game is relative to the competing schools’ long-time rivalry.
“If you are playing for La Salle and you are going up against Ateneo, you already know what needs to be done. There is no need to motivate you. You already know your responsibility,” said Mr. Gonzalez following their 99-72 victory over the University Santo Tomas on Wednesday.
“Going up against Ateneo, we know we are in for a tough battle. They have been winning big of late apart from the fact that entering the season we know they are the team to beat,” he added.
But while Mr. Gonzalez, who took over from champion coach Aldin Ayo in the offseason, emphasized the special quality of a La Salle-Ateneo game, he also mentioned that important for them as well as a team is to be playing in their top form for the rest of the tournament.
“Of course the Ateneo game is special and we will prepare hard for it. But also we are going to take it like any other game and not allow the enormity of it to affect us too much. We will just play our game the best we way we can, and take it one game at a time,” he said.
Against former coach Ayo and the Growling Tigers last time around, La Salle dominated right from the get-go, led by big man Justine Baltazar, who finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks.
Guard Aljun Melecio also played well with 19 points.
Ateneo, meanwhile, is on a four-game winning streak after opening Season 81 with a loss.
Thirdy Ravena leads a balanced Eagles attack with an 11.2-point average with Anton Asistio, Matt Nieto, and Angelo Koume scoring nine points or better per game.
Preceding the Ateneo-La Salle game is the match between UST (1-4) and University of the East (1-4) at 12 noon. Tickets for the matches are sold separately.