KIB Montalbo buried the go-ahead jumper with 40.3 seconds to play as La Salle handed Ateneo its first defeat via a 79-76 decision on Sunday in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Green Archers came through in the clutch to finish the elimination round with a 12-2 win-loss card, while forcing a Final Four after handing the Blue Eagles their first loss of the season, in the last match of the elimination round.
The No. 1 Blue Eagles take on fourth seed Far Eastern University on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Second seed La Salle will go up against No. 3 Adamson on Saturday at the Big Dome.
Montalbo made up for his turnover late in La Salle’s 76-75 loss to Ateneo in the first round with the game-winner for La Salle.
“I have to commend the players for their effort, for sticking to the game plan especially during the end game,” said La Salle coach Aldin Ayo.
The Green Archers scored the last 10 points of the game to overcome a 76-69 deficit with 2:21 left.
Montalbo scored six points, his final field goal turning out to be the biggest in the game.
He converted a floater off a spin move to give La Salle a 77-76 lead.
Ateneo let a golden chance to regain the lead slip away after Isaac Go flubbed a perfectly-executed inbound pass.
Ricci Rivero converted two free throws with 8.9 seconds to play for a three-point lead, and made a crucial defensive stop when he blocked a three-point attempt by Anton Asistio.
Mbala posted big numbers, finishing with 28 points, 19 rebounds, six steals and six blocks, while Rivero had 21 points and five rebounds for La Salle, which swept its second round schedule and has not lost since its first-round defeat to Ateneo.
Thirdy Ravena had 15 points and eight rebounds, Go scored 13 and Nieto added 12 for the Blue Eagles, which led by as many as 12 points.
La Salle 79 – Mbala 28, Ri. Rivero 21, Tratter 8, Santillan 7, Melecio 6, Montalbo 6, Go 3, Caracut 0, P. Rivero 0, Baltazar 0, Paraiso 0.
Ateneo 76 – Ravena 15, Go 13, Ma. Nieto 12, Verano 9, Mendoza 7, Asistio 6, Tolentino 6, Ikeh 4, Porter 3, Mi. Nieto 1, Mamuyac 0, Black 0.
Quarterscores: 17-22; 37-35; 54-63; 79-76.