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Ateneo’s Go is answer to La Salle’s Mbala

By Al S. Mendoza

 

GAME One of the UAAP Men’s basketball Finals was played yesterday (Saturday).

Because of deadline tyranny, I wrote this on Friday—or a day even before Ateneo and La Salle could sink their first championship baskets.

The title showdown is a usual best-of-three affair.

Before tip-off yesterday, La Salle was favored to win and retain the country’s most coveted collegiate crown.

Ateneo hopes to derail that prediction.

But in order for Ateneo to do that, Katipunan’s Boys in Blue must thoroughly check Taft Avenue’s Ben Mbala, the heart and soul of La Salle.

Mbala is 6-foot-4 Cameroonian monster, whose dominating presence made him this season’s MVP for the second straight year.

Because of Mbala’s power-laden game, one man alone could not guard, nor neutralize, him.

A double-team, or even a triple-team, is needed on a consistent basis to limit Mbala’s shooting as well as rebounding skills.

And who should be tasked to anchor Ateneo’s defense against Mbala?

Ateneo must go to Isaac Go.

At 6-foot-8, Go could at least exploit his large wingspan to prevent Mbala from wreaking havoc on both Ateneo’s offense and defense.

Go is hampered a bit, though, by his not-so-sharp reflexes when ranged against a very agile, quick and sprightly Mbala.

The trick is for Ateneo’s shock troopers to help Go on defense, especially in the box-out area during rebound battles where Mbala is usually at his deadliest.

Go, for one, is in high spirits following his recent exploits that saw him banner Ateneo’s 88-84 victory that ousted Far Eastern University last Wednesday.

With his never-expected, game-tying triple as time was expiring, Go forged an overtime at 75-all to save Ateneo’s skin as well as a season rich in dreams.

And then in overtime, Go grabbed a tight board that proved to be the Ateneo’s game-winning rebound.

Go bucked a fall from that rebound scramble and, using his right knee for balance, he flung a boarding shot from right to push Ateneo to an unreachable 87-82 bulge with mere ticks remaining.

With such display of heroism, Go should be extra big in Ateneo’s title clash against La Salle.

Before Ateneo’s conquest of FEU in the Final 4 semis, Go was merely that gangling giant without extra skills.

Today, Go has become extra special.

Watch out, Archers.

*                *                *                *

Traffic in Metro Manila has forced Kuya Leonie Galvez to cancel his stay in Makati upon his arrival from Los Angeles, hopefully on December 16. 

Instead, from the airport, Kuya Leonie, our pinablin PUNCH correspondent from the US, will proceed to his beloved City of Bonuan Bangus.

“Finally, I will spend Christmas in my land of birth after a 27-year absence from the Yuletide festivities,” he said via e-mail.

Dagupan eagerly awaits the arrival of one of Pangasinan’s greatest sons.

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