Ateneo’s Dave Ildefonso. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines-Ateneo reduced its seething rivalry with La Salle to a one-sided encounter with a runaway 68-54 win on Saturday night at the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
Ange Kouame came back with a vengeance, muscling his way to 11 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and three steals while Chris Koon scored all of his 11 points in the second half as the Blue Eagles recovered lost ground against the Green Archers in their first-round meeting.
Cashing in on the undermanned Archers, the Blue Eagles likewise bounced back from a stinging defeat at the hands of the National University Bulldogs where Kouame, the reigning league MVP, produced only two points.
While the Blue Eagles moved up to solo third at 6-3, the Archers’ fourth straight setback, their sixth defeat overall in nine games, gave the UP Fighting Maroons an automatic ride to the Final Four.
It will be the fourth consecutive appearance of the defending champion Maroons in the semifinals.
The Archers seemed to have managed their manpower shortage after missing MVP front-runner Schonny Winston for the second consecutive outing due to a strained calf and Raven Cortez, who continues to nurse a sprained ankle.
But after keeping themselves in the thick of the fight in the first half, the Archers just couldn’t find an answer to the offensive prowess of the Blue Eagles in the second half.
Koon started firing from afar and finished with three triples, Dave Ildefonso and Vince Gomez bore holes in the La Salle defense and by the time the third quarter ended, Ateneo was already up by 17 on Rence Padrigao’s triple.
It was all downhill from there for the Green Archers, whose lone bright spot was Evan Nelle’s 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists after coming off a one-game suspension.