AFTER putting on the worst performance of his UAAP career back in Game One, back-to-back MVP Ben Mbala of La Salle knew exactly what he needed to change.
He needed to enjoy the game like he used to.
That’s exactly what Mbala did as he led La Salle to a 92-83 come-from-behind win over Ateneo to tie the UAAP Season 80 finals at one win apiece last Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Something I always have to remind myself is at the end of the day, it’s a game and we have to enjoy it,” the Cameroonian said after a win that set the stage for a sudden-death match on Sunday.
“I feel like the past game, I was too tense, you know I wanted to overdo everything. I had to like, sit down, inhale, exhale and relax,” he added.
With La Salle down by 19 with less than two minutes to go in the first half, Mbala finally got La Salle going and regained his confidence after a two-handed dunk.
“Maybe after that dunk, I felt like everything went smoothly. Everything started going well for us.”
The 6-8 slotman scored 20 points to go along 16 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and two assists – the exact opposite of his output last Saturday where he was limited to just eight points and 12 rebounds.
Mbala said there was no way he would allow another win to slip from his hands.
“Coming into Game Two, we’re not coming here to just lose the game,” Mbala said. “We go here to be champions. That’s what we all work for. We’re gonna come out to try and grab that trophy.”
He expects Game Three to be nothing short of a war.
“When you play Ateneo, there is no underdog. There is no one having the upper hand. Everyone can blow you out, everyone can play like the champions. So when you go there, you have to give your everything,” said Mbala.
“The crowd is crazy and everybody wants to win it. Everyone is diving for the ball and it’s pretty crazy. You just have to find a way to stay focused and do what you have to do.”