LA Salle opened its post-Aldin Ayo era with a close win, squeaking past University of the Philippines, 82-79, in the opener of the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup on Saturday in San Juan.
Without Ayo on the sidelines and two time MVP Ben Mbala on the floor, the Green Archers proved that they are still a force to be reckoned with as they took out a much improved Fighting Maroons squad in their opener.
The Green Archers nearly blew a 10 point lead but hung tough in the end to fend off the Maroons.
"Sa akin bonus lang eh. Still, it’s really a work in progress … Kaya what I did, sa first three months namin, more on talagang used to develop the relationship," said La Salle head coach Louie Gonzales.
"Kasi mas mabilis siguro kung mabubuo tong team na to kung at first aayusin ko yung relationship tapos pupunta kami sa basketball court," he added.
Justine Baltazar led the Archers with 16 points, six rebounds and two blocks as Kira Samuel added 12 points and seven boards.
Andrei Caracut finished with 11.
Juan Gomez de Liano paced the Maroons with 21 points and six assists.
La Salle 82 – Baltazar 16, Samuel 12, Caracut 11, Santillan 9, Montalbo 9, Bates 9, Melecio 8, Corteza 4, Go 3, Dyke 1, Capacio 0.
UP 79 – Gomez de Liano Ju 21, Dario 16, Akhuetie 12, Desiderio 9, Vito 8, Gomez de Liano Ja 7, Jaboneta 3, Manzo 2, Murrell 1, Prado 0, Tungcab 0, Gozum 0, Lim 0.
Quarterscores: 20-15; 36-36; 58-52; 82-79.